CALMAC are facing a logistical nightmare as they try to keep all ferry services running with several vessels out of action.
MV Isle of Lewis has undergone major unexpected engine repairs on her annual refit and has now gone back to dry dock after being damaged as she left the port.
The Stornoway/ Ullapool route was being covered by MV Clansman which has now left for her scheduled refit in Aberdeen and the much smaller MV Hebridean Isles has taken her place.
A spokesperson for Calmac said they hoped MV Isle of Lewis would be back in service by the end of this week and were confident that MV Hebridean Isles would cope with the expected traffic.
He said: “Due to a number of issues associated with the refit schedule, we have had to shuffle vessels across the fleet. The MV Isle of Lewis has been in dry dock and has undergone a major, unexpected, engine repair. Her duties on Stornoway-Ullapool have been picked up by the MV Clansman which is now on her way to Aberdeen for refit.”
He added: “Due to the scale of the repairs to the MV Isle of Lewis we were concerned to build in some contingency in the event that she encountered problems returning north and therefore the MV Hebridean Isles was sent north from Islay to provide cover.
“This was only due to last a few days, but unfortunately, the MV Isle of Lewis was damaged when leaving the dock and has had to return for repairs. It is hoped she will be back on the route at the end of the week.”
Details of this incident are not yet clear but it is thought the vessel was damaged as she was towed out of the port.
The spokesperson continued: “In the meantime, we are confident that MV Hebridean Isles will be able to cope with projected traffic, as we intend switching some commercial traffic to the MV Muirneag which is operating and the weather forecast is good.
“We are currently assessing traffic on the Islay routes and believe that the MV Finlaggan will be able to cope for the week, while MV Hebridean Isles is in the Western Isles. We are working on the basis that MV Hebridean Isles will return to pick up the Islay service on Monday morning (20th)
“However, if we think MV Finlaggan is not coping, we will put the MV Isle of Arran onto the Islay run, but she is currently laid-up in Campbeltown and it would take several days to bring her into service.
“We are therefore closely monitoring the situation and will respond as required. We apologise for any inconvenience to ferry travellers.”