More lifeline ferry service cancellations as a second Arran vessel is sidelined

LIFELINE ferry services on one of Scotland’s busiest crossings have been cancelled again after a redeployed vessel needed urgent repairs.

It came as the MV Caledonian Isles was out of action for a third day – because of two positive Covid cases – leading to major disruption from Ardrossan on the mainland to Brodick on the Isle of Arran.

One of CalMac’s oldest vessels, the 38-year-old MV Isle of Arran was taken off the Ardrossan to Campbeltown service to operate services normally run by Caledonian Isles on Monday.

But now it has emerged the ferry operator has had to cancel services tomorrow (Wednesday) as well for “essential repairs” to a bow visor seal.

CalMac have told customers that 14 services due to be operated by Isle of Arran on Wednesday are cancelled.

Following repairs, the state-owned ferry operator said that it hoped to operate six services between 12.30pm and 7.20pm.

It comes after travellers were advised to go on a 125 mile detour and ensure they take rest breaks – in the wake of a row over a series of cancellations to sailings since the weekend.

Caledonian Isles was to be deep cleaned and crew replaced.

READ MORE: Motorists advised to take toilet breaks on 125 mile detour in Scots ferry service disruption row

Caledonian Isles – one of CalMac’s largest vessels carries 1000 passengers and 110 cars but Isle of Arran carries less than half the number of passengers and 34 fewer cars.


State-owned ferry operator CalMac told customers it had investigated the possibility of redeploying another vessel from elsewhere in the network to this route “but unfortunately this has not been possible”.

It encouraged as many people to travel on the non-bookable Lochranza on Arran to Claonaig, a hamlet on the east coast of the Kintyre peninsula in western Scotland, as an alternative.

By road, that meant those travelling from Ardrossan going on a 125 mile detour to get to and from Claonaig – a journey that would take around three hours. The Ardrossan to Brodick ferry crossing usually takes just 35 minutes.

CalMac even advised that travellers plan in rest breaks on route to Claonaig.

CalMac said that extra sailings were operating. MV Loch Linnhe will operate a shuttle service alongside MV Catriona’s published timetable to assist with additional traffic.

CalMac told customers: “If you have been affected by this disruption, there is no need to contact us if you’re intending to travel today. Space on the Ardrossan-Brodick route will be exceptionally limited and will operate on a first-come, first-served basis, with lifeline traffic being prioritised. Because of this, we ask that customers only travel if necessary. If you do not already have a vehicle booking please do not attempt to travel.”

The row blew up on Sunday as six services were cancelled operated by MV Caledonian Isles.

The Isle of Arran ferry redeployment meant that all sailings between Ardrossan and Campbeltown were cancelled.

The ferry operators set up a replacement bus service for foot passengers hit by the cancellations at 1.50pm to arrive at Campbeltown after a three-and-a-half hour and a 153 mile journey. At least 46 are understood to have taken the trip.

There was further concern when CalMac said that due to “reduced crew numbers affecting hours of rest” two services at 9.45am and 11.05am on Sunday between Brodick on Arran and Ardrossan were cancelled. The ferry operator said that “compensatory rest is required in line with the maritime labour convention” and came after Covid cases were discovered.

CalMac brought in an emergency vessel after two days of service cancellations on the the same crossing at the start of last week after another Covid case.

MV Loch Linnhe, one of the oldest in the ageing fleet operated by CalMac, was commissioned after a series of cancellations on the Ardrossan to Arran route caused by a member of staff testing positive for Covid on board MV Caledonian Isles.

CalMac is currently footing an £11,760 a day bill to charter an emergency ferry from Isle of Man government-owned Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Limited to help maintain lifeline passenger and freight services.

MV Arrow was brought in to help relieve pressure on freight services between CalMac’s Stornoway to Ullapool crossing but broke down on July 24 after operating for just a week. Marine waste got tangled with a propellor and all sailings scrapped till the end of the month.

The delivery of new lifeline island ferries MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802, which were due online in the first half of 2018, are over four years late, with costs doubling to over £200m. Glen Sannox was due to support the Arran route.

A CalMac spokeswoman said on Sunday that they were seeking replacement crew members as a result of positive Covid cases.

“There were already positive cases on the Caley Isles with other crew members isolating before these two cases happened, and a ferry must have a certain number of crew before it can be safely run,” she said.

“Covid rules in terms of infection control are still in place, to keep people from catching it, they’re not a choice and staff would absolutely rather that services were running smoothly without having to withdraw ferries, but these are the rules we have to work to at the moment.

“There are reduced crew numbers because of previous positive tests and the legal requirement for people to self-isolate. Like all transport operators, crew are legally required to have rest periods, for the safety of all.”

Tommy Gore, Area Operations Manager (Clyde) for CalMac, said: “The bow visor seal on MV Isle of Arran has a worsening defect which requires essential repairs. To allow for these to be carried out effectively, we have unfortunately had to cancel sailings between Ardrossan and Brodick tomorrow morning. We apologise for the inconvenience that this will cause to passengers.

“As soon as the results of PCR tests are returned for crew on board MV Caledonian Isles, the vessel will be deep cleaned and returned to service. Unlike other forms of public transport, ferry crew numbers are strictly governed by maritime laws, but with increasing numbers having to self-isolate, this unfortunately has a knock-on effect on the ferry service. Vessels are only permitted to operate with a minimum number of crew on board to protect passenger safety.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992