A LIFELINE ferry on one of Scotland’s busiest routes was taken out of action on Friday for repair – causing fresh chaos on Scotland’s network.
The Herald can reveal there have been three ferries laid up for repairs in the space of two days.
A problem with the MV Caledonian Isles’ sewage system meant it was withdrawn from service to undergo repair leading to more ferry cancellations on the busy Ardrossan to Brodick on the Isle of Arran route.
CalMac said: “For the health and safety of our passengers and crew it is not possible for the vessel to continue in service currently.”
The vessel was picture laid up in Ardrossan as repairs were being carried out.
CalMac sailings across the network have been dogged with issues during the service’s peak summer season.
Twenty-eight-year-old Caledonian Isles – one of CalMac’s largest vessels carries 1000 passengers and 110 cars – was out of action for several days last month as a result of a member of staff testing positive for Covid.
CalMac said that the second ferry on the Arran crossing put on extra sailings and passengers were moved onto those and the vessel is expected back tomorrow.
And due to reduced crew availability from crew members requiring to self-isolate at short notice sailings between Ardrossan and Campbeltown on Friday evening and on Saturday morning were cancelled. A replacement bus will operate for foot passengers was due to depart Ardrossan at 6.40pm on Friday.
It comes as it emerged the 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles, one of the oldest in the state-owned fleet, was taken out of action on Thursday for repairs. A technical issue with an inlet value on its port main engine meant services to Islay were cancelled.
It came back into services on Friday morning following sea trials.
It comes amidst a host of sailings being cancelled to try and cover for the loss of 21-year-old MV Hebrides on Tuesday which is not expected to be resolved until next week.
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 last weekend and repairs a week ago. At the time it was thought to be a problem with the exhaust.
It was due to go to dry dock in Birkenhead on Tuesday, and is due to be out of service until September 9. CalMac has warned that this date is liable to change.
Martin MacGuire, facilities manager with McGhee’s Family Bakers in Glasgow feared he was would not be able to get back to his home on Arran as a result of the loss of Caledonian Isles.
“This situation is becoming utterly intolerable and nobody in Scottish Govenrment is taking an ounce of responsibility,” he said.
“Basically, I can’t get home to the island tonight and need to abort plans and business meetings set up for this evening and tomorrow.
“Many other island commuters must be in the same situation.”
Later he said that “by sheer good fortune snd the efforts of a staff member at Brodick” he managed to dash to Ardrossan and “squeezed onto an earlier boat”.
As a result of the MV Hebrides repairs, 23-year-old MV Clansman was shifted to help with sailings lost in the Hebrides area from Tuesday morning – leading to cancellations of sailings on its usual Oban to Colonsay and Barra routes for the next week. Sailings between Coll, Tiree and Barra will also be cancelled on Wednesday, CalMac said.
And the 32-year-old MV Lord of the Isles, one of the biggest and oldest vessels in the CalMac fleet has been tasked with taken up some of the slack on the Oban to Colonsay crossing.
But that has meant cancellations to four sailings a day on the Mallaig, Invernesshire to Armadale on the Isle of Skye route until Sunday. It also means further cancellations to sailings on the route between Mallaig, Invernesshire and Lochboisdale on South Uist.
Passengers that use the Mallaig to Armadale ferry were told that they will be rebooked onto alternative sailings.
CalMac has said that as a result of MV Hebrides being withdrawn from service and vessel redeployment, there is disruption on one of Scotland’s busiest services, Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull.
They advised there may be longer queues and waiting times at Lochaline and Fishnish.
In the midst of the disruption concerned passengers have continued to complaint at being unable to get through to CalMac’s customer relations team.
It is the latest in a summer of issues with breakdowns and Covid issues involving Scotland’s ageing ferry fleet.
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.
Tommy Gore, area operations manager (Clyde) for CalMac, said of the Caledonian Isles repairs: “Extra sailings were carried out this afternoon by MV Isle of Arran between Ardrossan and Brodick, and also by MV Loch Riddon between Lochranza on the west of Arran and Claonaig, while MV Caledonian Isles was being sorted. We expect that she will be back in service by 7am on Saturday morning.”