WESTERN Ferries (Clyde) has reported a 17% increase in profits in its 40th year of trading.

The privately owned company, which operates up to 80 sailings a day of a vehicle-carrying service between Hunters Quay near Dunoon and McInroy's Point near Gourock, Inverclyde, saw turnover rise almost 4% from £7 million to £7.27m in the 12 months to March 31, 2013.

The growth in turnover is thought to be because the most recent accounts reflect a 12-month period when there was no competing Caledonian MacBrayne vehicle service, compared to the nine months for the 2012 financial report.

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Argyll Ferries, a CalMac subsidiary, operates a foot passenger service between Gourock and Dunoon.

Western Ferries (Clyde) said it had seen a 1.5% increase in passengers using its services.

Accounts filed at Companies House show pre-tax profits at Western Ferries (Clyde) for the 2013 financial year were £2.23m, compared to £1.9m.

The cost of sales declined slightly from £4.1m to £4.05m, while administrative expenses were steady at £989,000.

Operating expenditure was in line with expectations at £5m.Writing in the accounts the directors said the total operating expenditure was in line with expectations at £5m.

They added: "The company expects to see limited growth in the market place during the current recession."

Capital spending increased from £57,000 to more than £3.7m. This is mainly thought to be related to the commissioning of two new vessels, which came into service in the summer.

The Sound of Soay and the Sound of Seil were both built by Cammell Laird in Birkenhead.

They will replace the slower and smaller Sound of Scalpay and the Sound of Sanda, which had been used by Western Ferries (Clyde) since 1995.

At the time of the launch of the new vessels Gordon Ross, Western Ferries' managing director, said the new addition, along with two in the fleet brought in during 2002, meant that it would be possible for Western Ferries (Clyde) to carry 500 cars an hour for the first time in its history.

The larger ferries would also increase capacity on the route by around 30%.

Mr Ross also expects there to be cost savings in the coming years, as the newer vessels are more fuel efficient than the ferries being replaced.

In recent years the company has invested in upgrading its berthing facilities and expanding the car parking facilities at its sites.

The 2013 accounts show the business moved from a net funds position of £729,000 to a net debt of £1.1m, partly as a result of absorbing the costs of the new ferries on to its balance sheet.

Average staff numbers increased by one to 66 while employee costs fell from £2.7m to £2.56m.

Directors' emoluments dipped from £388,000 to £353,000 with the highest paid seeing their pay package going down 13.5% from £148,000 to £128,000.

The accounts state that equity dividends worth £500,000 were paid, compared to the £400,000 allocated in the prior year. The company, which began operations in the summer of 1973, counts Labour party politician and former Nato secretary general Lord George Robertson among its directors.

According to its most recent annual return it has no majority owner but counts a number of shareholders from different families.

It sails around 32,000 crossings each year.

A publicly subsidised vehicle-carrying ferry service, operated by CalMac, did run on the Dunoon to Gourock route until it was withdrawn in June 2011 and changed over to the passenger only Argyll Ferries offering.