Gourock to Dunoon operator Western Ferries has posted a near 18% increase in annual profits to £2.7 million.
The firm, which is considering the reintroduction of a freight service to Islay, said it only cancelled 56 sailings out of around 32,500 for the year ending March 31, 2019.
Managing director Gordon Ross said: “Once again we have delivered a near 100% reliable service to our customers, by far the best in Scotland. We have continued the process of investing in new ferries and our terminals, which better ensure the resilience of Western Ferries’ service. Our environmental record is also a source of great pride to the team at Western Ferries.”
Western Ferries, whose car and passenger service between Gourock and Dunoon is not state subsidised, reported pre-tax profits up from £2.3 million to £2.7 million, while revenue increased from from £8 million to £8.5 million.Operational expenses went up from £5.7 million to £5.8 million.
It added around 400 extra sailings to meet demand, buoyed by the good weather in summer 2018, making it the highest level of frequency for any route in Scotland.
The firm also continued to provide out-of-hours sailings to transfer emergency patients from Cowal to hospitals in Inverclyde and Glasgow, at no cost to the NHS.
It added that its new vessels – Sound of Soay, Sound of Seil, Sound of Shuna and Sound of Scarba – had increased fuel efficiency.
During the financial year, it also completed the replacement of second berth at its terminal at McInroy’s Point in Gourock. The £3.5 million investment in a replacement second berth at Hunter’s Quay Dunoon has since been brought into service in August 2019.
Western Ferries also has plans to upgrade its overnight berth in Kilmun, and is building a new head office at the Hunter’s Quay terminal. Western Ferries also hopes that the completion of the office will coincide with new shore, vessel and online ticketing, all to the benefit of its customers.
At the end of Western Ferries’ current programme of capital improvement, almost £30 million will have been reinvested back into the service over the last 12 years.
Ross said Western Ferries was continuing discussions with Transport Scotland over a dedicated freight service to link Islay with Ayrshire.
He added: “Islay could be a big part of Western Ferries’ future plans going forward for 2020. However, further in-depth discussions with multiple partners will be required before any dedicated freight service can become a reality.”