The chief executive of CalMac is stepping down as the state-owned ferry operator faces ongoing challenges with its fleet.

The company announced on Wednesday that Robbie Drummond is stepping down with immediate effect.

It comes just over a week after the chief executive of the state-owned shipyard Ferguson Marine, David Tydeman, was sacked by its board.

Mr Drummond’s departure comes after a review by the board of CalMac, which is also wholly owned by the Scottish Government.

In recent years the ageing nature of CalMac’s ferry fleet has led to delays and disruption on its routes around the west coast of Scotland.

READ MORE: Ferry fiasco costs Scots public 'staggering' £1.3m a week under ScotGov control

These problems have been compounded by ongoing delays to two ferries being built at Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow.

The two ferries, which will ultimately serve routes in the west of Scotland with CalMac, are some six years late and will cost around three times the original price of £97 million.

Ministers are also due to make a decision this summer on the awarding of the ferry services contract for the west coast, something which would have a material impact on CalMac as a going concern.

Mr Drummond was previously managing director of CalMac before becoming its chief executive in October 2022.

Last year he was reported to have earned £170,000 in bonuses on top of his £143,000 salary.

The Herald: A Caledonian MacBrayne ferryA Caledonian MacBrayne ferry (Image: Colin Mearns)

His departure was announced in a statement from the company on Wednesday.

It said: “The Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd board takes the responsibility of delivering the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS) contract extremely seriously.

“It recognises that the island communities served by CalMac have faced real challenges over this past year. These challenges are likely set to continue until new vessels are introduced to the fleet over the coming years.

“In this context, the board wants to strengthen the focus further on operational performance of an ageing fleet, resilience and enhanced dialogue and responsiveness with the customers and the communities CalMac serves.

“As a consequence, the board has reviewed the executive leadership of the organisation to ensure that it is best placed to achieve that during some challenging years ahead.

READ MORE: Scots ferry firm admits 'material uncertainty' over future

“As part of that review, current CEO Robbie Drummond is stepping down with immediate effect.”

Duncan Mackison, former chief executive of CalMac’s holding company David MacBrayne Ltd, has been appointed interim boss until a permanent successor to Mr Drummond is found.

Responding to the news, Scottish Conservative shadow transport minister Graham Simpson MSP said: “Robbie Drummond is now the latest scapegoat for the SNP’s ferries fiasco.

“Mairi McAllan – as the SNP minister responsible – is presiding over utter chaos in Scotland’s ferry network.

“Not a single ministerial resignation has been offered over this scandal yet now the head of both CalMac and Ferguson Marine have been fired in the space of two weeks.

“The minister needs to urgently explain – not least to betrayed islanders – what is going on here and why she believes sacking CalMac’s top boss is a good idea.

“The buck ultimately stops with them over the failure to deliver lifeline vessels to our islanders.” 

Speaking outside Calmac’s Gourock HQ, former Inverclyde Councillor and Alba Party General Secretary Chris McEleny said:  “In the space of a week we have seen the CEO of Ferguson’s sacked and now the CEO of Calmac. On a personal note I feel sorry for Mr Drummond as he was popular with staff and he could only ever run a ferry service with the vessels he was given. 

“ It is now time for the Scottish Government to intervene because our national ferry service is on disarray , they should scrap CMAL who miraculously seem to be the only organisation that are surviving unscathed. Alba Party have long campaigned for the establishment of a new Ferries Scotland body that brings all of the work involved in the procurement, construction, maintenance and operation of our ferries together under one roof. 

That way instead of finger pointing at each other they will have the joint priority of delivering for our island communities.”

Scottish Labour Transport spokesperson Alex Rowley, said: “The chaos on CalMac services is a direct result of the SNP’s woeful mismanagement of Scotland’s ferry fleet.

“No matter who is in the top job in CalMac, islanders will continue to be let down until the SNP government starts delivering the ferries we need.

“These lifeline services are central to the local economies of island communities and act as a link friends, family, work and healthcare.

“We need a real ferry replacement programme to boost resilience across the CalMac network and end the turmoil in these lifeline services.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson Willie Rennie MSP said: “Another week, another resignation but still no SNP minister is carrying the can for the ferry chaos.

“CalMac have had to cope with an ageing fleet and delayed new ferries thanks to the SNP Government."