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Covid-19 Customer Updates and Travel Advice
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Essential Travel


I understand the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has announced that the ferries are only for those that live on the islands who need to travel for essential supplies or business.  What does that mean for me?

The First Minister has announced that our ferries should only be used for essential supplies or business by those that live on the islands.  We ask that you do not travel on our vessels unless your travel is indeed essential.

Further, on 23 March 2020, the First Minister also announced that people must stay at home except for:

  • Essential shopping - for food or medicines and only once a day

  • Medical reasons or for the care of vulnerable people

  • Travel to and from essential work - all employers should be making provision to work from home. 

How are you validating essential travel at your Ports?

We are asking customers to follow the latest Government advice. Please do not travel on our vessels unless your travel is essential. From 22 March, the Government outlined that ferries are currently only for those who live on our islands, who have an essential need to travel to or from the mainland, and for essential supplies or business.

Prospective passengers need to be prepared to evidence that they are either an island resident, a key worker or travelling to provide medical support to family members before they will be able to travel.

How can I evidence that I am permitted to travel at the moment?

For our passengers who are permitted to travel, please be prepared by bringing with you: 

  • A recent utility bill with your island address, along with photographic ID or your Island Card

  • Your relevant identification as a key worker.

I have paid for a ticket/booking but my travel is not essential, what should I do?

Please contact us for a full refund. We have waived any cancellation charges through to 15 July 2020. Please apply for your refund online here

I don't normally live on the island and wish to leave to travel back to the mainland, will I be able to do so?

Yes, you will.  This form of travel is seen as essential travel as it will relieve the potential pressure on the island communities. 

I live on the island and need to get home. Why are you not letting me book?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic we have had to stop taking bookings up until and including 15 July 2020 - this reflects the four-month period advised by Scottish Government as being the initial period of COVID-19 disruption. 

We will be operating a turn up and go service on all routes.

How will first come, first served be managed at your ports? If I have no booking when should I aim to arrive at the port to ensure I get on?

CalMac can't guarantee travel on any of our turn-up and go service as this is dependent on the number of passengers ahead of you in the queue, the types of essential vehicles intending to travel and the available capacity on board.  We recommend that you plan ahead and allow plenty of time to arrive at the port and be prepared not to be able to board on your first sailing of choice.

Can I still use ferry travel for business and freight purposes?

Yes - if you are a key worker undertaking essential travel or if you are transporting essential goods to where they are required.

At CalMac, we have a key part to play in the supply chain. To assist everyone during these challenging times, a list of goods that are deemed priority has been created. Any vehicle - be that an articulated vehicle, van, car with or without a trailer, involved in the transportation of these goods will be given priority on all routes and on all sailings. They include:

  • Vehicles carrying food and other goods for supermarkets and shops

  • Vehicles carrying drugs and other medical supplies

  • Vehicles carrying medical oxygen

  • Vehicles carrying items required by the emergency services, in particular, medical items related to the current Covid-19 outbreak

  • Vehicles carrying fuel

  • Vehicles carrying livestock

  • Vehicles carrying animal feed.

Why has CalMac issued this advice on essential travel on their ferries / to and from the islands?

Every single person has a role to play in limiting the spread of Covid-19, and working within the current set of rules set out by Government will ensure we are able to do this. We must protect one another - including the island communities we serve, our passengers and our crews.

The island communities do have a particular challenge to deal with - we need to protect their resources, including local health, food and supply facilities from excessive pressure.

We know that our customers and passengers will understand the reasons we need to implement these arrangements.

Everyone at CalMac is looking forward to welcoming our passengers back to the islands when the situation has improved. We know that our island communities will do too. Until then, thank you for the support you are showing in following these new arrangements.

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