Dual role for new chairman leads to merger speculation

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There was a surprise when the new chairman of the board of David MacBrayne Ltd (DML) was announced last week.

For the job was handed to Erik Østergaard OBE, who is already chairman of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL).

And it has led to increasing speculation of a possible merger of the two organisations, both wholly owned by the Scottish Government.

Minister for Transport Graeme Dey MSP announced the appointment of Mr Østergaard to little fanfare last week.

He also announced the appointments of Tim Ingram, Grant Macrae and Sharon O’Connor as non-executive directors of the DML Board.

With more than 160 years’ experience, DML is one of Scotland’s longest continually running businesses and its largest subsidiary company is CalMac Ferries Limited (CFL).

CMAL owns the ferries, ports, harbours and infrastructure for the ferry services serving the west coast of Scotland, the Firth of Clyde and the Northern Isles.

Mr Østergaard was appointed to the CMAL board as a non-executive director in November 2006 and became chairman in April 2014.

He is CEO of Danish Transport and Logistics, comprising 2,100 Danish transport and logistics member companies.

His career spans more than 30 years in senior management roles in the shipping, ferry operations and transport industries.

A review of the delivery of ferry services in Scotland, known as Project Neptune is already under way by the Scottish Government which could lead to a shake-up of all of the bodies involved in providing the lifeline services.

But a source close to the ferry debate said: ‘This appointment in no way pre-empts the outcome of the review into the structures involved in the delivery of ferry services in Scotland.

‘This appointment is as a result of a separate fair and open recruitment process aimed at securing the right candidate with the skills to challenge and support the work of DML moving forward.

‘One of the key tasks from ministers for the new chairperson will be to ensure that DML can ensure that there is confidence that islanders’ views are more clearly represented in the working of the board and CalMac moving forward.’

Transport Scotland also dismissed the speculation saying the appointment was ‘a completely separate issue’.

A spokesman said: ‘The independent review of legal and governance arrangements for Scottish Government lifeline ferry services remains on schedule to be delivered around the end of the year.

‘This report will present a framework consisting of a range of options designed to enhance the functioning of the tripartite governance arrangement.

‘This work has included a review of ferry models across the world where there are a number of different types of operation.’