SCOTLAND’S biggest ferry operator carried more than 5.6 million passengers and more than 1.4m vehicles to Scotland’s islands and other beauty spots as traffic showed another year-on-year increase.

David MacBrayne Ltd (DML), which operates CalMac Ferries, saw growth in the number of passengers visiting the western isles last year.

“I am delighted to report on a very successful last financial year, in what has been a very challenging working environment,” said DML chief executive, Duncan Mackison.

“Increased passenger volumes, combined with a higher number of sailings that we have been tasked with carrying out, are placing more and more pressure on our services.

“It is testament to the innovative approaches, skill and dedication of our staff that we can deliver an increase in profit on what is a highly specified and detailed contract to deliver ferry services across the west coast.

“Against a challenging background, our performance, both financially and in our service offering to the travelling public is outstanding,” said Mackison.

The chief executive went on to say the firm’s statistics – including service reliability of 99.4% and punctuality of 99.6% – were “figures any transport operator would be rightly proud of”.

Over the last year DML has worked to increase its focus on environmental issues, and bosses say the company is on course to cut its carbon emissions by 5% over the next 12 months – equivalent to the carbon output produced by 1668 cars in one year. DML says the carbon emission cuts are being achieved via the use of fuel monitoring systems.

Another area DML says it has been focused on is providing opportunities for young people via modern apprenticeships, which have doubled over the last two years

Since CalMac was crowned ferry operator of the year at the UK Transport Awards last year, DML has launched its new Community Fund. The fund offers support to groups working with young people in the company’s area of operation and works with charities across the west coast.

And towards central Scotland the wider DML group has seen growth, having taken over the management of Perth Harbour in July 2018 and seeing marine traffic increase by 31%.

“We have ambitions to grow even more over the next few years and continue to add value for our communities, the Scottish Government and Scottish taxpayers,” added Mackison.

He continued: “The ferry industry across Scotland faces a number of challenges in the future and we stand ready to offer our expertise, innovation and world class experience to benefit the whole industry.”