CALMAC has redeployed a ferry from one of its busiest routes to help out as the breakdown of one of its oldest vessels has seen it sidelined for a fourth day.
Services to and from Islay and Colonsay have been hit since 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles was once again taken out of action on Saturday due to a problem with its hull which is being investigated.
The service was reduced to just one vessel as repairs are sought just nine days after Hebridean Isles was laid up due to a technical issue with its port main engine.
The vessel was being repaired and there were plans for it to undergo sea trials.
CalMac confirmed that it had to redeploy MV Isle of Mull from the Oban to Craignure route on Monday to Islay – leading to further cancellations.
The state-controlled ferry operator suggested that customers make a just over two hour detour to Lochaline in the Highlands, 67 miles away from Oban, where there is an alternative ferry to Fishnish on Mull.
CalMac said that this was due to “limited capacity on alternative sailings”.
CalMac has traditionally served Islay with two vessels including MV Finlaggan.
It is the latest in a summer of issues with breakdowns and Covid issues involving Scotland’s ageing ferry fleet.
Transport minister Graeme Dey said attempts were being made to ease the ferry crisis by purchasing another ferry.
Officials from CalMac and the ageing ferry fleet owners Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) were actively assessing a vessel with a view to purchase.
He said: “If we get this over the line, it will have a degree of positive cascade effect across the network, and additionally create the potential for us to be heading into the next summer season with a back-up vessel standing by to cover any issues which arise.”
Last week, another ferry brought in to help support Scotland’s beleaguered lifeline network was put out of action the day after it was chartered.
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 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 for three days.
CalMac warned that they were not accepting any additional day trip bookings for two days so that it can accommodate existing bookings and island residents.
That came 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.
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 breakdown in April of Scotland’s biggest publicly-run ferry MV Loch Seaforth, which operates on the Stornoway to Ullapool route, caused 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.