The future course for MV Isle of Lewis remains up in the air this week, as CalMac consider options for the long term use of the vessel.
Currently the ferry is on standby in Stornoway to cover MV Loch Seaforth in the event of an issue arising and is scheduled to undertake two return crossings to Ullapool from the end of this month until the end of August.
However her long term future is now up for discussion with the ferry soon due to set sail on a tour of ports to see where she fits in best.
A CalMac spokesman said:
“We need to maintain as flexible a fleet as possible to meet the demands of the communities we serve.
“To help us deliver on this the MV Isle of Lewis will shortly be embarking on tour of a number of our larger ports across the west coast to determine where it can berth and what adaptations it may need to serve the greatest number of routes.
“During this exercise it will remain on standby to cover the Ullapool Stornoway route if required.
“Long term where the vessel will be deployed will be dependent on where it can best be used to meet passenger demand and address capacity issues.”
When asked about the potential for MV lsle of Lewis to provide additional summer sailings between Stornoway and Ullapool again next year, the CalMac spokesperson said that would be decided by Transport Scotland.
At this week’s meeting of the Convention of the Highlands and Islands in Orkney, the issue of capacity on island ferries was discussed with it noted that MV Isle of Lewis could potentially be used on the Oban-Craignure route.
In a paper presented to the Convention on Infrastructure, it was noted: “RET has clearly had a significant impact on the routes where it is now in operation.
“In particular, increased demand for cars is now leading to capacity constraints on a number of routes throughout the summer months.
“Most concern has been expressed in the Outer Hebrides, in particular from the tourist industry, where there is a strong belief that the capacity constraints are preventing some prospective visitors from travelling to the islands and therefore limiting opportunities for growth.
“In the short term, additional capacity is being provided on the Ullapool-Stornoway route in summer with the introduction of the new MV Loch Seaforth alongside the MV Isle of Lewis.
“Plans for 2016 are still under discussion, but could see the MV Isle of Lewis being moved to provide additional capacity on the Oban-Craignure service.”
They also discussed the plans to order the next two large vessels for the CalMac fleet which is likely to be in 2017-18, one of which will be for the Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy triangle.