ANOTHER ferry brought in to help support Scotland’s beleaguered lifeline CalMac network has been put out of action the day after it was chartered, it has emerged.
The 40-passenger catamaran MV Larven, normally operated by Western Isles Cruises was brought in by the state-controlled ferry operator as further disruption hit services to and from the so-called Small Isles including Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna.
But on Monday morning, just a day after CalMac told customers they had secured the charter – it was taken out of service for what was only described as a “technical issue” and is not expected back till Thursday at the earliest.
CalMac warned that they were not accepting any additional day trip bookings for Wednesday or Thursday so that it can accommodate existing bookings and island residents.
Customers were also told there were no day trips to Muck on Tuesday.
CalMac, which did not clarify what the problem was, said it “apologised for any inconvenience this may cause”.
One island ferry user said: “After the issues there has been over the summer, this is infuriating to say the least but at least locals appear to be being prioritised. ”
It is the latest in a summer of issues with breakdowns and Covid issues involving Scotland’s ageing ferry fleet.
It comes just six weeks after another ferry chartered with the sanction of ministers to support Scotland’s the network broke down in less than a week.
The MV Arrow was brought in to help relieve pressure on freight services between CalMac’s Stornoway to Ullapool crossing having been chartered a week ago.
It was to provide additional overnight sailings on the route for six weeks.
CalMac had hoped the charter would free up space on its MV Loch Seaforth ferry, particular during the busiest weeks of the summer tourist season.
But it hit problems after marine waste got tangled with a propellor on Saturday and all sailings were scrapped till the end of the month.
The latest passenger ferry charter came after the usual Small Isles vessel 21-year-old MV Lochnevis hit problems at the weekend leading to further cancellations.
MV Larven was originally brought in on Sunday to accomodate foot passengers to work alongside the 25-year-old CalMac vessel MV Loch Bhrusda as MV Lochnevis was taken out of service for an annual overhaul.
But now with MV Larven out of action, MV Loch Bhrusda has had to cope on its own.
In June MV Larven was brought in after further problems with Lochnevis – which had lasted three weeks.
While trying to deal with a backlog of vehicles and freight in the service to Eigg, Muck, Rum and Cann, after repair work was carried out to the thruster of Lochnevis, it broke down again, with a generator circuit breaker issue.
Meanwhile the 21-year-old MV Hebrides which was taken out of action due to an oil leak early last week is due to come back online on Wednesday.
MV Hebrides, which can carry 612 passengers and 90 cars was due to be replaced by a new ship, one of two dual-fuel vessels at the centre of a ferry-building fiasco that are languishing in Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow on the Clyde.
After a delay of over four years the new ferry, known as Hull 802, is expected in early 2023.
Problems with an oil leak on the shaft seals on MV Hebrides, which serves the Uig to Tarbert and Lochmaddy route, were discovered over a week ago.
It was went into dry dock in Birkenhead last Tuesday leading to a re-organisation of ferries across the network to cover for the loss – with a host of cancellations covering for the loss.
The breakdown in April of Scotland’s biggest publicly-run ferry MV Loch Seaforth, which operates on the Stornoway to Ullapool route, caused similar disruption across the islands network for seven weeks.
Islanders from Arran to Islay have lodged complaints to ministers about disruption and cancellations to services as the ageing Scottish ferry fleet falters.
While industry experts agree the working life of the ferries is 25 years, 14 of the 33-strong ferry fleet run is older than that, with eight past their 30th birthday.