A new CalMac team has delivered more than 15,000 extra car spaces over the past year thanks to more efficient on-board deck management.

Since the introduction of a new dedicated team dealing with island businesses, the ferry operator says it has successfully freed up deck space much earlier to the travelling public than would have been possible previously.

This is making space available equivalent to 185 sailings of the MV Caledonian Isles over a 12 month period.

The team was established to manage businesses that have a requirement to block book space on board. Its introduction is in response to feedback from community groups across the network who had identified this as a key issue affecting their service.

'We are aware that as demand for our services has increased and capacity become constrained, the block booking system has become a target for those frustrated by the lack of available space.  However, it goes to the heart of providing a "lifeline" ferry service,' said CalMac's Managing Director, Robbie Drummond.

'Hauliers need to travel almost every day to provide the essentials island communities depend on. They are also critical to local economies and businesses carrying produce, like whisky, from the islands to markets on the mainland and beyond.'

'By getting to know their specific business needs and ways of operating, we are now in a much better position to manage deck space. Thanks to this more highly focused relationship approach we can now monitor and reallocate unused space as required more effectively.'

Demand for space on ferries has never been greater. Vehicle traffic has increased more than 31% since 2011 with CalMac now carrying 350,000 more vehicles annually than it did eight years ago.

Meanwhile ferry and ports owner Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) has acquired the MV Loch Seaforth from Lloyds Banking Group for an undisclosed amount.  The bank financed the building of the ferry and leased it to CMAL, which is Scottish government-owned, for the past five years.It is claimed that, under the initial deal, the ferry service to the Western Isles would have cost taxpayers at least £67 million by 2022 - but the bankers would still have owned the passenger ship.