The latest twist has brought calls for a proportion of space to be reserved for workers in both directions and a review of restrictions on the number of foot passengers.
Iain MacLeod from Ranish, currently working at Nigg in Easter Ross, said that unless resolved, the problem would make it “very difficult” for islanders to work away and be home at weekends.
He said: “My son and I go away on Monday as we are on nightshift and back on Friday mornings. We had been booking travel three weeks in advance to be on the safe side until last Friday when we tried to book ahead again as we do every Friday in Ullapool. When we tried to book the first weekend in July we were told all sailings were full both ways and the same for the following three weekends - just as foot passengers.”
Mr MacLeod contacted the local MSP to ask for intervention.
“The reason we work away is that we cannot get work at home. There are 30 Lithuanians at Nigg classed as ‘essential workers’. That is absolutely fine but it is a bit strange when it’s easier to come from Lithuania than Lewis”.
CalMac are operating to around 30 per cent passenger capacity, mainly taken up by tourists. Some maritime sources regard this as excessively low. CalMac have been asked for comment.