Second breakdown for Scottish Government’s £11,760-a-day emergency lifeline ferry

A FERRY chartered by the Scottish Government to support Scotland’s beleaguered ferry network is one of two CalMac vessels that has broken down in the space of 24 hours.

The MV Arrow, brought in to help relieve pressure on freight services between CalMac’s Stornoway on the Isle Lewis and Ullapool, has ended up out of service for a second time since it was chartered just over a month ago.

The state-owned ferry operator said that a technical issue with the steering gear pump meant MV Arrow was taken out of service yesterday (Tuesday).

MV Loch Seaforth, was diverted from passenger service duties to carry out the night freight service and CalMac said there could be further disruption today (Wednesday).

READ MORE: German firm Navalue gets £375,000 to help with ‘lessons learnt’ new Scots ferries concept

Meanwhile an engine problem with 16-year-old MV Bute led to cancellation of sailings yesterday between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay on the Isle of Bute with the possibility of further disruption today (Wednesday) while repairs are attempted.


MV Bute. Source: YouTube (kurlts)

The taxpayer is footing the £11,760 a day bill to charter MV Arrow from the Isle of Man government-owned Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Limited.

The ro-ro ferry joined the CalMac fleet on a short-term charter from July 19, until September 7.

CalMac hoped the charter of MV Arrow would free up space on its MV Loch Seaforth ferry, particularly during the busiest weeks of the summer tourist season.

It took over MV Loch Seaforth’s evening freight sailing six days a week. That allowed the Seaforth to deliver two additional passenger sailings per week.

When it was commissioned, transport minister Graeme Dey said it will bring “additional capacity” to a key route during the busy summer period.

“We recognise communities’ frustration at the recent disruption and the impact it is having. We are doing everything that we can, supporting CalMac to maximise available capacity across the network,” he said.

But after just a week of service it ended up out of action for 10 days in July after marine waste got tangled with a propeller and all sailings were scrapped till the end of the month.

Now 21 days after returning to action, it is out of service again, and CalMac have warned that the freight service is liable to further disruption or cancellation at short notice today (Wednesday).

In June, last year, an  investigation was launched after the freight ferry ran aground at the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour.

READ MORE: CalMac warn of compensation claims as probe is launched into biggest ferry breakdown

Operated this time by NorthLink, it  got into difficulties during manoeuvres on its arrival from Lerwick.

Aberdeen Coastguard said the vessel was freed by harbour tugs and was eventually able to continue to the quayside.


CalMac said MV Bute was taken out of service at around 9am yesterday leading to cancellations, and that some sailings would be operated my MV Argyle.

It said that if repairs are successfully completed on Tuesday evening, the vessel will need to undertake sea trials on Wednesday morning.

As a result, the 7.05am sailing from Rothesay today (Wednesday) was cancelled.

CalMac said that the “intention” is that the vessel, which can accommodate 450 passengers and 60 cars will resume service with the 8.05am departure from Wemyss Bay.

The latest breakdowns have come against a background of weekly issues with Scotland’s ageing lifeline ferry fleet and growing anger over a “waste” of public money over Scotland’s ferry-building fiasco.

The collapse in August, 2019 of Ferguson Marine Engineering (FMEL) led by tycoon Jim McColl, which runs the last remaining shipyard on the lower Clyde, came amid soaring costs and delays to the construction of two lifeline island ferries and resulted in its nationalisation by the Scottish Government.

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.

The Scottish Government has said it believes it was acting in the public interest in taking complete control of Ferguson Marine by December, 2019 as it saved the yard from closure, rescued more than 300 jobs, and ensured that the two vessels under construction will be completed.

Yesterday the Herald revealed that German ship design consultants Navalue have been handed £360,000 to help with the concept for a batch of seven new ferries to replace ageing CalMac vessels and try to provide better and greener lifeline services for Scotland’s islands.

Scottish Government-controlled lifeline ferry owners Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) is to investigate the feasibility of designing low emission ferries which are due to be introduced over the next ten years to replace existing vessels that are all over 25 year old.

A CalMac spokesman said: “MV Argyle is operating a reduced number of sailings today while MV Bute is off for repairs.

“As a result of an issue with MV Arrow’s steering gear pump, MV Seaforth will take over her scheduled freight sailings. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

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