Clyde Shipping

GOUROCK-Dunoon Ferry Contract Process 'Paused' Over Review

THE award of a new contract for the Gourock to Dunoon ferry route is to be delayed for around nine months because of a review of ferry tendering policy.

It follows correspondence from the European Commission prompted by a joint approach from the Scottish Government and the RMT union. The response indicates that, in certain circumstances, public ferry services could be awarded to an “in-house” operator without the need for tendering. 

The review will look in detail at the implications of the Commission’s response on future tendering, in particular the so-called Teckal exemption and State aid rules. 

Transport Scotland said the current Gourock to Dunoon procurement will be "paused" whilst the policy review is carried out. This will require an extension of the current contract of around nine months. The route is currently operated by Argyll Ferries, using the passenger-only craft Argyll Flyer and Ali Cat. In winter Transport Scotland have supplemented the smaller vessels with the larger MV Coruisk to provide more reliability in bad weather. The next contract was due to begin in June 2017 and run for 12 years. 

Argyll Flyer at Gourock today

Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf said: “The reply from the European Commission provides welcome advice and information on the application of the Teckal Exemption. This gives us an opportunity to further consider future tendering options for Scottish Government ferry contracts.  As always, our aim is to provide the best possible ferry services to our island and remote mainland communities, and we will take this opportunity to look again at how this is achieved.

“Transport Scotland will undertake this review to address the potential implications of the European Commission’s reply on the procurement of our ferry services.  It will cover the application of the Teckal exemption in light of the Commission’s latest advice, the requirement to ensure compliance with State aid rules, and all other legal, policy and financial implications relevant to alternative models for procuring the ferry services.

“It is important to highlight the Commission has made it clear that any solution must comply with State aid law, as well as meeting the requirements of the Teckal exemption. 

“We cannot pre-judge the outcome of the review.  However, should it conclude that it would be possible to apply the Teckal exemption and meet State aid rules then we would be minded to provide ferry services through an in-house operator, taking account of the communities they serve.  This would, of course, be subject to wider policy and value for money implications and the views of those communities.

“We need to give very careful consideration to the potential impact of any changes before final decisions are made  Pausing the current tendering exercise for the Gourock-Dunoon service will give us time to consider these complex issues so we’re clear on how best to deliver ferry provision in the future.  The policy review will also consider the implications for the Northern Isles services.  We have already started engagement with the current operators of both services to discuss the implications of the review.

“I’m also well aware that this review will be of key interest to ferry staff, users and local communities, so I have asked Transport Scotland to engage fully with trade unions and other stakeholders in the course of the review. 

“Our ferry services are iconic transport links that play a vital role for our island economies.  Making sure they continue to support the communities they serve, as well as delivering best value for taxpayer’s money, will always remain at the heart of our ferry operations.”

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