Ferry Business - Autumn/Winter 2022

9 4 COMMENTARY The value of an efficient ferry link Many people regard ferry services as merely a mode of transport, but stakeholders should consider how they can be used to drive socio-economic improvements for the communities at both ends of the service MICHAEL GREY Michael Grey is a master mariner turned maritime journalist and has edited both Fairplay and Lloyd’s List in a career spanning more than 60 years. People who are dependent upon a ferry link invariably seem to complain a lot. They moan about everything from the price of a crossing to the fact that the timetable offers sailings that do not suit them, the standard of the ships, and even the fillings in the sandwiches. This is essentially what somebody who ran one of these lines to and from an island told me when I met him a few years ago. At the time I thought he was being a little unfair to himself as the users of just about every mode of transport habitually complain about all these matters. In fact, that very day I had been raging about a cancelled train. These days, of course, dissatisfied customers are better organised and often form collective groups to harass the management of their transport links and create powerful lobbies to belabour local politicians to “do something”. In the USA, customers often engage in class action and lawfare in pursuit of their aims. In many cases, the dissatisfaction of frustrated travellers who are dependent upon ferry links will be thoroughly justified. As a current example one needs to look no further than both the services around the West Coast of Scotland and those to the Northern Isles, both of which are attracting a great deal of opprobrium related to service issues. Here, ageing and broken-down ships, vessels unsuited for the vehicles that wish to use them and the inability of the government to grasp the need for better transport are permanent reminders of the complaints about these Route Sea Road in Victoria, Australia, was founded in 1987 and now carries more than 900,000 passengers per year