CALMAC have been ridiculed for blaming ferry disruption on the ‘wrong type of water’.
Ferry chief say “significant changes” in weather conditions are the reason for more cancelled boats.
But critics have been scathing of the state owned company and say bad weather “comes with the territory” and pointed out that seas off the west coast of Scotland have always been choppy.
And scientists say that while the past two winters were stormy, the two before that were particularly calm.
The row echoes rail bosses’ notorious claims from the 1990s that train delays were the result of the “wrong type” of leaves or snow on the lines.
CalMac’s cancellation rate for a trial of a winter crossing between Mallaig and Lochboisdale hit 59% over the past two years.
Guy Dale-Smith, CalMac’s head of marine, said: “In recent winters, our masters have witnessed an increase, not only in the severity of extreme weather events but also in their duration and frequency, all of which have impacted on our fleet’s ability to operate services safely.
“Such extreme weather events also have a considerable impact on the ability of the ports and slipways we operate from to safely support the delivery of our ferry services.”
He added: “Of course we fully appreciate our customers’ frustration that weather changes are leading to an increase in disruptions across our network.
“But there is no quick fix to this and it will be a factor those responsible for replacing ships and upgrading harbours will have to take into account when planning for the future.”
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the taxpayers alliance, said: “Bosses shouldn’t be surprised by bad weather in Scottish seas – it quite literally comes with the territory.
“Whether the weather is getting worse or not, it’s important we do everything possible to minimise disruption without jeopardising safety.”
Island Cllr Ronald MacKinnon, who lives in South Uist in the Western Isles, said: “We’ve had bad storms but we’ve had them for years. I wouldn’t say it was worse.
“We live on an island. Bad weather, we’re used to it.”
He added: “They’re in a world of their own CalMac.”
Dr Eddie Graham, a meteorologist at the University of the Highlands and Islands, said the last two winters have been particularly stormy.
However he said 2009/10 and 2010/11 were very quiet winters.
He added: “CalMac have chosen something that is hard to disprove. The weather is always an easy scapegoat in Scotland.”
CalMac declined to comment on the criticism.