Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Second CalMac hybrid ferry to be named Lochinvar

Hybrid ferry

Hybrid ferry via CMAL publicity

We previously noted the imminent arrival of hybrid ferries to the Clyde, and the completion of the first of a pair pioneered by CalMac when the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00, which marked the start of  new era. The hybrids are able to carry up to 150 passengers, 23 cars or two HGVs, and travel at 9 knots.

The second of the pair has had its name of MV Lochinvar released by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), and like Hallaig, was built at Ferguson Shipbuilders Ltd in Port Glasgow and is due to be launched in May. Lochinvar’s route will service Tarbert and Portavadie.

The names of all ships in the new hybrid fleet will follow the first vessel, the MV Hallaig, and be named after Scottish literature.

Hundreds of people voted for the new name and Lochinvar received over 55% of the votes cast.

The name comes from an excerpt of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion written in 1808. The stanzas telling the story of “young Lochinvar” particularly caught the public imagination and were widely published in anthologies, and learned as a recitation piece by many school children.

Via New hybrid ferry named MV Lochinvar after Sir Walter Scott poem | Highlands & Islands | News | STV

Sir Walter Scott, “Young Lochinvar”


April 11, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scotland pioneers hybrid ferries, but could it go for battery as well?

I hadn’t realised it was just over a year to the day that I had first noticed and written about the pioneering hybrid ferries had commissioned, and were to be built in our very own Scottish shipyards – Fergusons Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow to be exact.

I won’t repeat the story behind these new ferries and their operation (you may read the original post here: The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real where links are given to the manufacturers description of the concept and its operation) , other than to say the two vessels are described as the world’s first sea-going roll-on roll-off vehicle and passenger diesel-electric hybrid ferries.

The first of the two hybrid ferries was completed recently, and the 135-tonne MV Hallaig was launched from Fergusons on December 17, 2012, at 14:00. The vessel is almost 150 feet long, and can accommodate 150 passengers, 23 cars, or two heavy goods vehicles.

The launch was recorded by someone lucky enough to work at the yard, and get a privileged position:

See also: ‘Hybrid’ CalMac ferry launched from Port Glasgow

Completion for delivery into service with CalMac is expected to be completed during early 2013, with the new ferry expected to come into service on the route between Skye and Raasay next summer, following fitting out, testing and certification. Trial are expected to take place in April/May, with the handover taking place in May.

Hallaig has its own page on the excellent Ships Of CalMac web site.

So, since we appear to have a reasonably well thought out and Scottish-made hybrid ferry (and another in the pipeline) ready to go into service, why did I refer to battery operation in the title?

Battery ferries

While Scotland has its ‘world first’ as its first hybrid car ferry gets set to enter operation…

I have recently come across another ‘world first’ in the form of the first car ferry powered by a purely electric drive system, as reported by Siemens on January 9, 2013.

Working together with the Norwegian shipyard Fjellstrand, Siemens announced development of the world’s first electrically powered car ferry, known as ZeroCat. Larger than Hallaig, their 80-metre (260 foot) vessel can accommodate up to 360 passengers and 120 cars, so is not only fully electric, but in a different class, given its ability to carry so many passengers.

Battery ferry

ZeroCat battery ferry – Siemens press picture

Due to enter service in 2015, ZeroCat will serve the route between Lavik and Oppedal, across the Sognefjord. The electrically powered ferry was developed in response to a competition organized by Norway’s Ministry of Transport, and won by shipping company Norled, which was also granted a license to operate the route until 2025 as part of its prize.

Instead of the 2,000-hp diesel engine which powers the current ferry and consumes on average more than 264,000 gallons (over 1 million litres) of diesel each year, and emits around 570 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 15 tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NO),  ZeroCat uses an 800 kW, 11 tonne battery to drives two screws. Although the battery is heavy, the completed vessel weighs only half that of a conventional catamaran ferry, as its twin hulls are fabricated in aluminium. The hulls also use a particularly slim design which increases their efficiency, and Siemens estimates that the new ferry will need only 400 kW to cruise at 10 knots.

One  critical requirements the design was required to satisfy was the need to fully charge the batteries in only 10 minutes – the time taken to turn the ferry around at each terminal. This power demand rendered conventional charging methods unsuitable, since neither port was supplied by a large enough electrical grid to deliver the required charging current.

Instead, each terminal is equipped with a high-capacity battery installation, able to be charged slowly while the ferry is en route. This means they are then ready to provide a quick “dump charge” in the 10 minute period during which the ferry is docked while it loads and unloads it cargo of passengers and cars.

Such a system would seem to be one which could be used to advantage in Scotland, where a number of short routes exist, and the ferry terminals are only a short distance apart. For example, Rhubodach/Colintraive, and Largs/Cumbrae come to mind in my own area.

These journeys are much shorter, and of lesser capacity than that given in the Norwegian example, simplifying the demands on the batteries, motors, and charging systems. The turnaround times are also somewhat longer here, allowing more relaxed charging criteria. Given the shorter routes, it should also be possible to relax the full charge requirement too, and allow such ferries to operate without having to receive a full charge at every docking.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone in this business now (I used to, long ago, and even worked on some ferries – no, not in the galley, but in a technical capacity), so have no idea if anything like this is even being considered for future vessels operating in Scottish waters.

February 5, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Info sought on Seafire trials on the Clyde

I don’t have any details on the pic below, other than the note that came with it asking if we had any more info, and saying that it was of a Supermarine Seafire landing on HMS Illustrious while taking part in trial on the Clyde during World War II.

The Seafire (a shortened version of the name Sea Spitfire) was a version of the Spitfire which was modified in various ways to make suitable for use at sea and on carriers.

Most notable of the changes were folding wings to allow the aircraft to be stowed, and an arrester hook to assist with deck landings.

From what I’ve read to date (and that is little) it seems that the creation of Seafire was not the best idea someone had ever had. While the idea of a short-range interceptor was a great idea on land, the very elements that made it so were a liability at sea, and many of the developments made to the Seafire were based on overcoming those problems. Short range, limited weapons load, and short endurance are significant disadvantages at sea, but easily dealt with on land. The Spitfire was a tail-dragger (as opposed to having a tricycle undercarriage), which made it hard to land at low speeds on deck, as such aircraft want to glide on and on forever – the configuration also resulted in restricted forward visibility for the pilot (many would open the cockpit and look out of the side to get an idea of where they were, there simply being no forward vision when taxiing. You can in fact see this problem clearly illustrated in the photograph below. The narrowness of the original undercarriage did not help stability, and it seems the engine was so powerful that the draft made the aircraft swerve on deck, even with full opposite rudder applied to counteract such adverse yaw effects arising from the engine.

But it was war, and such aircraft were needed at sea to help defend against enemy aircraft, so even with its problems, the Seafire still had a job to do while specialised aircraft were being developed for the job.

I can vouch for all the landing problems with a tail dragger, after ‘learning’ to fly in Flight Simulator (always in full realism mode and with all the toys/aids turned off). When you are used to seeing the runway ahead at all times, and to landing with a flare, coming down in my first tail dragger was a nightmare. The runway disappeared from view as the angle of attack rose to as the airspeed fell, and the very first time I tried this exercise I thought I was never going to touch down as the glide just carried on and on and on, seemingly forever (you end up in ground effect, a phenomenon that acts to reduces the aircraft’s stall speed, extending the glide yet further, particularly in low wings), until I rotated the aircraft slightly and killed the lift and set it on the ground. Anyone who could bring a Seafire down onto an aircraft carrier and catch the arrester wires had to be an expert. It seems that many failed – coming too fast. If they were lucky, they missed and could go around for another try. If not, they would catch the wire… and ended up tearing the tail off the aircraft.

It looks like a subject worth reading into.

However, our interest is more in the local events that may have taken place on the Clyde while trials were carried out on the Seafire.

If anyone has pointers to where further information, and maybe even some more pictures may be found, we’d be grateful to hear of them.

It’s just occurred to me that there was a DLT (deck landing training) school at HMS Condor, the FAA (Fleet Air Arm) Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Arbroath, which would probably have been in involved in some of the early training. At such schools, deck landings could be practised in relatively safe circumstances, using land based decks created on the runway. Pilots might still have accidents while trying to catch the arrester wire, but at least would not end up in the sea as a result.

With no features to give the location away, this picture could be almost anywhere, but according to the info that came with it, it is a HMS Illustrious carrying out Seafire trials on the Clyde:

Seafire Clyde trials

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Aviation, Maritime, Naval, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

The hybrid ferries of CalMac are real

While it would unkind to say that I actually doubted the rumours that I first detected regarding ‘battery operated ferries’ coming to the Clyde, the stories did come as a surprise, meaning that whoever was going to undertake this venture (there were no real details given) had to be ready to try something new.

It wasn’t long before the story broke formally, and the news came of two hybrid RoRo (roll-on roll-off) diesel-electric ferries, described as a world first for such sea-going vessels.

While the principle of using diesel (or other) powered generators to power electric propulsion units (eliminating the need for a direct connection of a drive-shaft between the engine and the propeller), combining this with rechargeable batteries which will supply a minimum of 20% of energy consumed was new.

I’m afraid I find little that ever makes me agree with those I refer to as ‘professional CalMac bashers’, and the fact that CalMac went with this proposal is, to me, yet another reason to turn a deaf ear towards them.

In operation, the ferries can be powered from the generators, or the batteries, which are kept topped up by the generators, and will be charged overnight, while the vessels are moored. Although the overnight charging will be carried out using mains electricity, it is hoped that energy from local wind, wave or solar systems will be used to charge the batteries as such facilities become available near the moorings.

Scottish build

Even more remarkable is the fact that the innovative project will also be undertaken on the Clyde – the ferries will be built by Ferguson Shipbuilders, which will be working along with Glasgow-based ship design specialists SeaTec, and electrical specialists Tec-Source. The project is supported by a Scottish government loan, with an additional funding of £450,000 provided from the European Regional Development Fund.

Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited is now part of the Ferguson Group, and is a shipyard located in Port Glasgow. Unfortunately,  it is currently notable as being the last remaining shipbuilder on the lower Clyde, and the only builder of merchant ships on the river, where it has long been a builder of RoRo ferries.

The contract is worth £22 million, and the media carried news of the first steel being cut on January 30, 2012s, with the first ferries of the ferries set to enter service in early 2013.

The 900 tonne ferries are designed t0 accommodate 150 passengers and 23 cars, and for short routes, including the link between Skye and Raasay.

Some background links to save you the effort of digging:

Hybrid Ferries Project | CMAL | Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd

CMAL Hybrid Ferry Presentation (PDF, 1.3MB)

CMAL Hybrid Ferry Presentation (PDF, 1.9MB)

Hybrid ferry

Hybrid ferry via CMAL publicity

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow is a space industry hub

Clyde Space CubeSat


The United Kingdom is the only country to have successfully developed and then abandoned a satellite launch capability, when the Black Arrow project was cancelled July 29, 1971. The UK was third only to the United States and USSR in the field of rocket technology, with a viable satellite launch programme and even plans for manned missions. A brief summary can be found in Britain’s first space pioneers.

I’ve no idea if there was any Scottish involvement at the time, or if there were any significant Scots in the programme.

However, in later years, I do know from my involvement in Scottish electronics manufacture that there were a number of American companies based in Glenrothes, and they were involved in manufacturing hardware used in spacecraft assembly, but I suspect their work may have been largely bound for aerospace applications, rather than space. Raytheon was developing space components from its base in Glenrothes in the 1960s, while Ferranti in Edinburgh built the initial navigation platform which was used for the Ariane launch vehicle.

Now, it would appear that Glasgow is seeing a rise in popularity as a centre for space development.

Previously, Glasgow based Clyde Space only built sub-systems, but was recently awarded the rights, by the new UK Space Agency, to design a tiny, cube-shaped satellite that will allow British Space experts to explore some of the questions about the solar system. UKube-1 is due to be launched in mid 2011, and is smaller than a home computer. In future, it could be used for space weather and atmospheric studies, particle science, or the early detection of bush fires or Tsunamis.

Clyde Space is now the largest indigenous space company in Scotland, and produces high-quality, high-performance systems for very small spacecraft called “CubeSats”.

The company made the news recently, with the announcement of a £1 million funding package, which will allow it to expand its current operation.

Space in Scotland

The University of Strathclyde hosts the Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory, which works with teams from Astrium, described as the third biggest space enterprise on the planet, and contractor to ESA (European Space Agency).

STAR-Dundee Ltd is the global leading developer and supporter of SpaceWire technology, a computer network used to connect elements like sensors or telescopes on board spacecraft.

The University of St Andrews is home to the School of Physics and Astronomy.

All these organisations work with the UK Space Agency.

See also Space age scotland – The Official Gateway to Scotland.

Update February 2012

I wish I could buy shares in most of the companies I spot – they often seem to turn up later doing well (unless they are ones which I have selected to poke fun at, which hopefully all go away and are never heard of again),

Clyde Space has been awarded funding to progress with two projects:

The firm has secured nearly £70,000 under the UK Space Agency’s National Space Technology Programme (NSTP).

The funding will help Clyde further work on miniaturised electric propulsion systems for very small spacecraft.

The other project involves developing attitude planning and control algorithms for low cost spacecraft.

Clyde has been working on tiny electric propulsion systems for very small spacecraft called “CubeSats” and nanosatellites with Southampton-based Mars Space Ltd.

Funding of £24,000 has been awarded for their joint work on a micro pulsed plasma thruster for CubeSats.

Clyde said the project would take the technology forward to a flight-ready prototype.

The UK Space Agency awarded a further £44,000 for a joint project with the Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory at the University of Strathclyde.

That project involves optimising algorithms for control of CubeSat attitude, furthering work already completed at Clyde.

Via Glasgow firm Clyde Space awarded funding

Guess I’ll just have to keep watching for their name to pop up again.

February 2, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

The Clyde: Films of the River 1912 – 1971

Waverley departing Bute

Waverley departing Bute © Zak

The Clyde: Films of the River 1912 – 1971 runs from June 20, 2009 until  September 20, 2009 at The Lighthouse in Glasgow.

The exhibition is accompanied by a number of related evens and workshops, all detailed on the Lighthouse’s own web site.

Opening Hours are: Mondays, Wednesday to Saturday 10:30 am – 5:00 pm; Tues 11:00 am – 5:00pm; and Sundays 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Admission varies, but Adults are £4, with Concessions £2 at the moment.

Most important of all is Saturday, when entry is currently FREE!

One of the particular references covered is going Doon the Watter, when those from the city descended on the coastal resorts of the Clyde in the bad old days when the local factories all closed down at the same time, and the workers were blessed with the beginning of legislation that gave them not only a holiday, but a holiday with pay. While it was welcome, it should be borne in mind that this was not the free option we enjoy today, and the workers had to work harder to make up the lost time and earn that pay.

There’s more information to be found out about this particular Clyde holiday, at the Castle House Museum in Dunoon, which has a special display organised around going Doon the Watter.

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Stormy water

Since deciding the news was too gum, or controversial, to provide a reliable source of inspiration, I’ve been at a bit of a loss for material. To be fair though, I’ve also been busy elsewhere, so blogging time is at a premium at the moment, and only particularly noteworthy or relevant elements even get noticed at the moment. However…

I have to admit that I don’t usually see the Firth of Clyde in times of really bad weather. Even when I visit during the winter, and even use the ferries at that time of year, the weather is invariably cold, but calm, and I’ve never made a crossing on anything more than the Firth of Clyde’s equivalent of a millpond. The closest I’ve been was a drive down the A77, to a destination past Stranraer, and there were some interesting moments as we timed some parts of our run down the coast road to avoid the sea as it smashed into the shore and made its way onto land, but we were lucky that day, and the wind was blowing the worst of it back  out to sea, and not the other way

However, having a look round some friendly sites, I see that the waters of the firth have been less than welcoming, with January 11 providing some spectacular photo opportunities, and I suspect an upset tummy or two.

As usual, many thanks to Zak for some great shots, and the two below are testament to my wisdom in staying away from the ferries when the weather is less than ideal. MV Clansman (Arran) and MVArgyll (Isle of Bute) – thank goodness the sisters have at least some distinguishing features and I could work out that this was not MV Bute.

As noted in the comments, Gourock gets busy in this weather, as it has some natural shelter from the sea, while the other piers have little or no protection from whatever the waters of the Clyde want to throw at them when it’s rough, so the ferries are diverted there, and sometimes have to queue like aircraft stacked at an airport. And you don’t even want to think about the resultant journey times, extended by the time taken to divert from the original port of call, and the resultant bus and train journeys that CalMac have to lay on for the waylaid passengers. However, there is always one positive aspect to such events, even though the operator has no control over the weather, it always provides a golden opportunity to be seized on by those who seem to like nothing more than griping about CalMac and the poor quality of their service. Hunting the web for them can be fun, and if the weather is fine, then they’ll complain about anything just to fill their time, even moaning about the tea on board on one occasion, when they were presumably stuck for something relevant to have a dig at.

Firth of Clyde January 11 2009

MV Clansman Arran ferry Firth of Clyde January 11 2009

Isle of Bute ferry January 11 2008

MV Argyll Isle of Bute ferry January 11 2009

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Maritime | , , | Leave a comment

QE2 makes final farewell trip to the Clyde

Farewell flowerbed on esplanade 2008 © Zak

Farewell flower bed on Greenock Esplanade 2008 © Zak

The QE2 arrives in Greenock at 12:00 BST (if the schedule is maintained) on Sunday, October 5, for her last ever visit to the Clyde, where she was launched from the Clydebank shipyard of John Brown on September 20, 1967.

The flower bed at Greenock commemorated the QE2’s 40th birthday and visit to Greenock on September 20, 2007.

This is the final farewell trip for the ship, and the QE2 will stay at Greenock until 22:00 BST, when she will depart beneath a firework display to mark the event , and head for Queensferry to make ready for the remainder of her journey. Tickets for this final cruise were reported to have sold out with an hour of going on sale.

There will be no public access during the stopover.

QE2 40th anniversary flower bed at the east end of Greenock Esplanade © Thomas Nugent

40th anniversary flower bed at east end of Greenock Esplanade © Thomas Nugent

The trip will end on November 28, when the QE2 will retire on arrival at the emirate port, to be converted into a hotel, having been purchased by investment group Dubai World for $100 million (£55 million).

The 70,000 tonne QE2 has broken records, transported troops and hosted royalty. In her time at sea, she has crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times, covered more than 5.6 million nautical miles, and carried more than 2.5 million passengers.

During her previous visits, the QE2 has always attracted crowds, and this visit is expected to be no exceptions, with thousands being expected to take advantage of this last ever opportunity to see the vessel in waters where was created.

The Farewell Visit

The BBC reported on the the arrival of the Queen Elizabath 2, and showed a short video of the event.

The QE2 follows HMS Glasgow on the Clyde, together with a flotilla of small boats

Observed from the shore during her farewell visit, the QE2 follows HMS Glasgow along the Clyde, together with a flotilla of small boats.

Your scribe has worked in one or two of the Clyde’s shipyards, including that of John Brown some years ago. During one spell there, we had occasion to wander through the old sheds at the west end of the yard. I believe these are no longer there, but at the time were used to hold the wooden patterns that had been used to form many of the parts for ships built at the yard, and we noticed that many of the patterns were marked with identification for the QE2 project.

I guess if the sheds are gone then the contents will have been discarded as well, with the knowledge that the QE2 would be heading toward retiral in a few years, the chances of needing any of thei original patterns would be slight, and modifications to the ship over the years would probably have rendered them obsolete in any case.

Watching the Antiques Roadshow this evening, it occurred to me that if they hadn’t been so big, those patterns would probably have made interesting collectors’ items nowaday – if they could have been sneaked past security – and might even have been worth something. I might add that the smallest was the size of a suitcase, and made of solid, laminated, wooden blocks.

October 5, 2008 Posted by | Maritime, Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crane collapse in Govan

Shipyhard on the ClydeIt looks as if time may be catching up with some of the artefacts that have survived from the Clyde’s shipbuilding days, with the collapse of an 80 ton crane in BAE Systems’ shipyard in Govan today.

One man received hospital treatment for minor injuries, while two others received treatment on site.

The crane, which appears on the extreme left of the photograph, was taking part in routine lifting operations, and had recently passed inspection in March.

An investigation will follow, in order to determine the cause of the failure.

Photograph by Chris Gunns.

May 5, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Clota – The Roman Clyde

Every so often, web video demonstrates its ability to surprise, and when it does, and we’re spared the juvenile ramblings of the kids with mobile phone with video cameras, then we’re treated to the occasional gem that we might never have seen otherwise.

The following pair of videos feature a description of the Clyde, or Clota, dating to Roman times, and provides an interesting look at a number of hidden or secret aspects that the vast majority of us have probably passed hundreds of times, without realising their history or significance.

Clota Part 1, Bishopton to Greenock:

Clota Part 2, Greenock to Largs:

February 17, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hoverbarge on the Clyde

I learnt about an interesting concept today, when I discovered the HOVERBARGE, a non-propelled craft capable (in this case) of carrying up to 200 tonnes, from Ferguson Shipbuilders at Port Glasgow on the Firth of Clyde on January 22, 2008. Shipbuilders on the Clyde may not be putting out the same volume as they did in years gone by, however that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing interesting things.

The basic concept of the hoverbarge is to provide a low-tech, amphibious solution for accessing sites using typical equipment found in their area, such as diesel engines, ventilating fans, winches and marine equipment. The air cushion vehicle (ACV) displaces the same amount of water when hovering, or floating as a normal vessel. It continues to perfrom as a displacement vessel until it reaches a critical speed while hovering, and once it has passed the hump speed will lift out of the water and skim over the water’s surface. The power required to do this can be enormous as the power v drag curve, once a speed of 6-7 knots has been passed, is exponential.

The load to move a 200 tonne payload hoverbarge at 5 knots would be 4 tons, but at 15 knots this would increases to 36 tons and  continues to rise rapidly thereafter. On a high speed hovercraft the skirt and air distribution design is made complex by the need to cope with the air cushion being washed out by a wave. The slower speed and large mono chamber of the hoverbarge actually helps reduce the effect of wave action as it avoid this wash out effect.

The cost per ton hovered or lifted is not a straight line curve, and depends on other factors such as the craft’s specification, density of load, climate, and hover height. Generally the larger the unit and tonnes hovered, the more efficient the system becomes. Most of the cost to hover the barge depends upon the perimeter length. For example, on a single load of 100 tonnes an area of 1555 square feet is required. For a 130 tonne load, the area required rises to 2,015 square feet, requiring an increase of 30% in lift but only 19% on the perimeter. Similarly larger hoverbarge become still more economical. To move from lifting a 1,000 tonne load to 2,000 tonnes would only require a 38% perimeter increase to achieve this doubling of capacity.

February 6, 2008 Posted by | Maritime | , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: