High priority should be given to ferry fleet

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The resilience of the Calmac fleet to ensure travel links to Scotland’s west coast Islands has been put into the spotlight again following the power shortage on board the MV Loch Seaforth ferry during her journey from Ullapool to Stornoway yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon.

A vessel breakdown in Easter led to major disruption to travellers during the busy travel period, with cuts to sailings, smaller vessels being deployed on busy routes and issues with information and booking leading to frustration for visitors and island residents alike.

A statement by the Calmac Community Board, at that time, stated: “While the board recognise that Calmac have to operate with the resources available to them, there was huge frustration that when at peak times and periods of full capacity the service is at serious risk if even one vessel is out of action, as at present.”

Now skip to yesterday afternoon and the power outage on board the MV Loch Seaforth - the ship was repaired quickly and is sailing on a revised timetable today (Thursday) - however the incident has underlined the fact that this issue has not gone away.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan welcomed the news that the ferry was back in service and recognised the efforts of engineers and crew, who repaired the fault and returned her to service in such a short timeframe.

But he added: “This episode gives a stark illustration of just how quickly a serious situation can develop when the fleet is stretched to the very limit during peak season.

“I was in regular contact with Calmac, Transport Scotland and the Cabinet Secretary for Transport throughout the evening, and while there were contingency plans being developed, it is clear that they would have involved a series of re-deployments which would inevitably have brought some level of disruption to other areas.

“It goes without saying that completing the next two vessels for addition to the fleet must be the very highest priority for our ferry services.”