Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) is planning to run extra sailings between the Western Isles and Skye to allow local produce extra time to reach the South of England and negotiate road and security restrictions imposed by the Olympic Games.
The extra sailings will operate between Lochmaddy and Uig on Mondays and Wednesdays for seven weeks between July 23 and September 5, following representations from the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association (WIFA) which was concerned that delays reaching markets would affect the freshness of their catches and potentially lead to lost business.
CalMac’s Head of Operations Brian Fulton said: “We are very aware of the importance of this business to the local economy and because we considered this to be exceptional circumstances, worked with Transport Scotland to find a way of ensuring the security and road restrictions, which everyone accepts is necessary, did not unintentionally impact on the deliveries of fresh produce.
“The late sailings on Monday and Wednesday nights will provide the extra time required and has the added advantage of providing additional capacity for islanders and visitors travelling to or from North Uist during this period. We are grateful for the Government’s support in making these additional sailings possible.”
Western Isles MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil has welcomed the announcement and said: “I first became aware of this problem when I was contacted by the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association (WIFA), who requested extra sailings to make sure that the shellfish operators could continue to supply the markets with the fresh shellfish.
“I contacted CalMac to support the calls from the WIFA and to ask that they give serious consideration to this request. I am delighted that CalMac have taken this action, which will be of great benefit to the shellfish industry.
“Well done to the WIFA for pursing this and to CalMac for addressing this matter which I am sure will be welcomed by the shellfish industry.
The additions to the existing timetable are as follows:
Mon and Wed - (Monday 23 July - Wednesday 5 September)
Dep Lochmaddy, N Uist 2000
Arr Uig, Skye 2145
Dep Uig, Skye 2200
Arr Lochmaddy, N Uist 2345