Ferry fiasco: Another ship breaks down as cargo cancellation on Scottish island sparks further anger

One of Scotland’s oldest public ferries had to be repaired due to a defect – because another had to make a return.

The 21-year-old MV Lochnevis, which can carry 190 passengers and 14 cars, had to shut down all services on the morning of the spring holiday due to a technical issue. He then operated a passenger service.

It comes as a new row has erupted over the disruption of weekend freight deliveries due to ferry cancellations on Lewis.

Now it has emerged that Scottish government funded CalMac had to bring in an MV Larven passenger charter to operate on Tuesday so Lochnevis could be fixed.

It comes as the MV Loch Seaforth was due to return last night (Monday) for 10.30pm freight from Stornoway after being offline for repairs for almost seven weeks. She passed her sea trials over the weekend.

CalMac said Lochnevis – which serves the small islands – Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna “has a problem with its thruster, so a passenger charter has been arranged.”

Passengers have been warned that Tuesday departures could be cut short or canceled at short notice.

Technical issues with the vessel have caused disruptions over the past two weeks.

On May 16, calls to Rum and Canna were canceled.

Launched in 2000, the Lochnevis cost around £ 5.5million and was purpose built as part of a £ 30million European program to modernize ferry services to the small islands.

READ MORE: ‘We apologize again’: CalMac’s biggest ship finally returns after seven weeks of ferry chaos

Some 25% of its construction costs have benefited from support from the European Regional Development Fund.

CalMac also warned that due to an “ongoing navigation issue” at the entrance to Muck Pier, all crossings to Muck remain subject to disruption and possible cancellation on short notice until that the problem be solved.

And service to Eigg also continues to be subject to disruption due to a persistent issue with the pier infrastructure.

The latest problems stem from the fiasco of building ferries in the country to the now state-owned Ferguson Marine.

The two rescue ferries under construction at Ferguson Marine, which were due to be in service in early 2018, are now almost five years behind schedule and cost now more than double the original £ 97million contract.

The return of CalMac’s largest vessel came after complaints about the cancellation of cargo sailing on weekends – leaving at least seven articulated trucks – three with loads of salmon.

Due to a delay on Friday evening, departures from Stornoway and Ullapool on Saturday morning were canceled.

An observer complained to a local MSP that it was possible to fit a dozen unreserved / emergency cars that could easily have accommodated at least two of the trucks.

He said, “Don’t be in a rush to go to the weekly store today! Calmac would rather ship RVs and unreserved traffic than local produce and supermarket loads.”

CalMac said the trucks got on the next trip and insisted there wasn’t enough room for even one joint “that’s why a handful of cars were able to ascend.

Robert Morrison, Director of Operations, said: “Customers have been kept apprised of the situation and have been advised in advance that the 3am navigation will not work.

“We know that recent technical issues have had a huge impact on carriers and we appreciate their understanding as we strive to keep essential services operational.”

Earlier this month, the Herald revealed that a temporary replacement freight ferry for the Ullapool-Stornoway route – considered too small because it only had four trucks – had itself had to be replaced, resulting in three days of freight cancellations.

Loch Seaforth was removed from the Ullapool-Stornoway road by CalMac in mid-April to be dry-docked for “major” engine repairs.

The publicly funded company initially said the eight-year-old ship would be out of service until “at least the end of April” at the earliest, but has since continued to postpone that date.

After a series of schedule changes and as the islands begin to open to visitors with the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, the ship’s return has been pushed back to May 31 at the earliest.

Following the initial repair of the Loch Seaforth engine, damage to the crankshaft was identified during post repair testing which required further action.

CalMac said the crankshaft bearings have now been disassembled and inspected and the damaged bearing has been replaced.

The Herald revealed how the failure of Loch Seaforth resulted in cuts to other services in the ferry network as ships used with other routes were moved to accommodate.

Campaigners had described the situation as a “national scandal” and that officials should have already lost their jobs for the Scottish state ferries.

One of Scotland’s busiest ferry services, the Ardrossan-Arran route, was to be served by one ship instead of two.

According to the Arran Recovery group, moving the ferry for the start of the summer tourist season will cost the island more than £ 500,000 in lost business.

The 38-year-old MV Isle of Arran – which operates normally on the Ardrossan-Arran route – and was withdrawn from freight service duties on the Ullapool-Stornoway crossing due to stabilizer issues, resulting in a shutdown of services for more than three days, operated on the “more protected” Islay runway.

There was criticism when it emerged that replacing Ullapool in Stornoway, the Isle of Arran only had room for four trucks.

The 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles ended up replacing the Isle of Arran on Stornoway Pass, initially causing cancellations on his usual Kennacraig in Islay.

With the return of Loch Seaforth, the Isle of Arran is due to return to the Brodick-Ardrossan route, allowing a return to two-ship service on June 3.

About Kevin Strickland

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