‘Headache’: Three CalMac ferries have been sidelined as service chaos continues

MV Loch Frisa became the third ship absent on Tuesday after problems with the sprinkler system needed repair before it could return to operations.

This caused disruption to two ships’ service to the Isle of Mull.

Meanwhile, 13-year-old MV Finlaggan, which is a drive-through and passenger ferry built in Poland for the fleet, experienced what CalMac called an “ongoing technical issue” with its right main engine not running the entire time. Tuesday.

The return from the ship’s delayed annual overhaul meant that MV Lord of the Isles could return to service on Friday the South Uist which had been out of service for most of June.

Services to and from the island of Islay remained disrupted on Tuesday as the MV Finlaggan – which can carry 550 passengers and 85 cars – was brought in for investigation and repairs.

And CalMac has warned that services to Colonsay could experience interruptions or cancellations on Wednesday at short notice as a result of issues with MV Finlaggan.

The MV Hebridean Isles, which has been beset by problems since Boxing Day, was removed from CalMac’s line of fire on February 16 with the shipping service providing essential supplies to Arran from Troon suspended.

It should be back in service on Islay in early June – but remains out of action.

That means that the MV Alfred, a charter vessel from Pentland Ferries which costs taxpayers £1m per month, remains en route to the Isle of Arran until at least 27 July with Mr Caledonian Isles.

The loss of MV Finlaggan for its annual revamp in early June and the absence of MV Hebridean Isles caused major disruption and caused MV Lord of the Isles to leave South Uist to serve Islay.

Continuing problems with its aging fleet led to the cancellation of nearly every ferry service to Lochboisdale in South Uist in June.

This led to major protests on the island and requests from ministers that CalMac review how to position the ships to address the shortage of ferries. The cancellations are claimed to have had a worse economic impact on the islands than the Covid lockdowns.

South Uist islanders were said to be “distraught” by the disruption when the CalMac ferry company cut sailings from Lochboisdale to Mallaig on the mainland in early June.

The Lord of the Isles’ withdrawal from South Uist was met with outrage and protest while there were growing fears that South Uist would once again see service withdrawn due to difficulties with its aging fleet.

An estimated 500 residents, 200 cars, 40 vans and 20 trucks gathered at Lochboisdale – the port linking South Uist to the mainland – in early June to protest the decision.

The continuing problems emerged when CalMac confirmed that a review of the state-owned ferry operator’s service disruption management would take months to complete.

The islanders were informed by former transport minister Kevin Stewart, three days before he stepped down from office on June 6, that he had ordered a review of the methodology used to deal with the ferry shortage to ensure that it took into account the “actual economic impact on the islands.” “.

Islanders said they were told during CalMac’s first visit to South Uist on June 12 that an internal review of the matrix was expected to begin within the next few days and a response was expected within a week to ten days.

But no changes have surfaced, and CalMac has confirmed it will take months to complete a review of the route priority matrix.

John Daniel Peteranna of the South Uist Business Impact Group (SUBIG), which organized the demonstration on the island over the cancellation, believes the process has stalled and there is “resistance to change”.

Meanwhile, problems with the bridge meant services between Inverclyde and Argyll and Bute were canceled until Friday.

Buses have been designed to replace ferries after problems that first surfaced last Friday and led to the immediate suspension of the Gourock to Dunoon route, one of Scotland’s busiest.

A replacement bus service is now running to and from the Gourock ferry terminal and the passenger lounge at Dunoon pier with ferry assistance from Western Ferries. Argyll and Bute Council have arranged for structural engineers and technical officers to survey, investigate and repair link spans.

Four new ferries are being built in Turkey for the Scottish west coast route and are expected to be delivered in 2025.

But the two ferries built by the nationalized Ferguson Marine in Clyde have been at the center of controversy over the procurement process, delays of more than five years and skyrocketing costs.

Earlier this year CalMac chief executive Robbie Drummond warned that the next two years would be “challenging” for Scottish islanders due to the age of the fleet.

* CalMac later said that the issues with MV Finlaggan had been resolved and would be back in operation at 7am on Wednesday after being fixed. MV Loch Frisa resumed operations on Tuesday evening after repairs.

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