In an email seen by the Gazette, the company say they have raised the issue with CalMac, Highland Council and with Alasdair Allan MSP and Angus MacNeil MP, who they say have approached the Scottish and UK governments respectively.
While the company still clearly hope to identify a solution, the company’s operations director Garry Reaper, told customers: “As Gleaner deliver to Uist, Lewis and Harris we have stressed that our supply to the islands is of vital importance for domestic users for heating and cooking and also commercial customers including businesses, care homes, hotels, schools and the airport.
“We wished to write to you so you are fully aware that we are taking this seriously and doing as much as we can to work with the other stakeholders, including CalMac and Highland Council on the need to resolve the situation
“Our requirement is for a day-time ferry to be available on a regular basis as the freighter is not the answer to this for many reasons, neither are the other possible alternatives that have been mooted as a potential solution. Other ferries are not a possibility as they don’t meet the service we require from CalMac to provide bulk gas supply.”
In a formal response, CalMac said that while the daytime sailing between Stornoway and Ullapool remains off limits due regulations surrounding bulk gas transport and passenger numbers, the overnight freight sailing remains an option.
The company said: “This is disappointing and not the outcome we were looking for due to the difficulties we have previously raised re nighttime ferries and the issues they are going to cause us and our customers.”
They said that using the freight service would “result in less journeys and longer delivery lead times to our customers.”
Customer Euan MacLeod of Vatisker in Lewis said: “It is very concerning that what we rely on for our fuel throughout the winter is going to be affected with Uig being out of action for six months. It’s bad enough for us as householders, but what’s really concerning is that the company also deliver to commercial businesses and the care homes in Stornoway. This is unacceptable and surely a resolution needs to be found.”
In a statement, the company said: “Gleaner is committed to supplying all of our customers in the Western Isles during the closure of Uig. Gleaner does, however, share the concerns and frustrations of local communities that the alternative arrangements proposed are not adequate.”
Businesses in Uist and Harris have already warned that the loss of trade through the closure of the route could see local firms going to the wall.