Between issues with Ferguson Marine and complaints about Caledonian MacBrayne, Scotland’s ferries have long been the subject of much debate on our Letters Pages. 

Last week, a reader wrote that he had identified a way in which the nation could save around £200 million a year in our state-funded ferry sector – by reducing the number of onshore staff and maritime crew. 

Read more: Ferries could easily operate with fewer staff and save millions

Today, however, a retired chief engineer argues that we reduce crewing levels on Calmac vessels at our peril. 

Alex R Forrest of Millport writes: 

"I take exception to comments made by Roy Pedersen about crew numbers on CalMac vessels. There may be scope for reducing shore personnel.

"At Gourock, for example, the number of office employees has grown threefold in 30 years. At Brodick, pier staff have gone from eight to 26, and on the Cumbrae service, staff on both sides of the crossing have multiplied due to a misguided new ticketing system. 

"By contrast, crewing levels on CalMac ships have continued to conform to regulations laid down by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which stipulate the ratio of crew to the number of passengers carried.

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"If, as Mr Pedersen claims, crew numbers need to be reduced, the passenger capacity of CalMac ferries will drop accordingly, drastically reducing revenue and restricting the ability of these vessels to service the islands’ needs, especially in summer. 

"Mr Pedersen complains about a lack of dining facilities when he travels by train from Inverness to Edinburgh. Is he therefore suggesting that islanders and tourists travelling on lengthy sea journeys should be deprived of catering services? 

"CalMac crew do not work office hours. Vessels operated by CalMac and other ferry companies are staffed to a level that conforms to legally binding hours-of-work and safety regulations. The travelling public deserves nothing less."