Major makeover for MV Isle of Lewis while Calmac consider MV Finlaggan return

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Extensive works, costing around £700,000, have been completed on MV Isle of Lewis, including engine works to help reduce the chance of disruption on the Stornoway-Ullapool route.

This year’s annual refit included painting of the whole vessel and replacing engine parts.

A spokesperson for Calmac said the works included painting the entire underwater hull with antifouling paint to maintain energy efficiency targets and a fresh coat of external black and white paint to maintain the appearance of the vessel.

He added: “The main engine starboard went through a complete stripdown to the crankshaft and was rebuilt with all new bearings, seals and so forth, as part of our drive to minimise downtime in service.

“Both main engines’ seawater and freshwater cooling pumps are being changed to electric power as the engine driven ones are no longer maintainable and the original manufacturer has advised they cannot supply spare parts to keep them reliable.”

He continued: “The hydraulic cylinders have also been replaced on the bow ramp on a timed rotation basis to keep the ship operating with minimum disruption.”

In addition to the technical changes, inside the boat the soft play area has been removed and replaced with a new puzzle toy area. The forward seating in the Observation Lounge has also been re-upholstered due to wear and tear and worn carpeting on the passenger access stairwell between deck 4 and 5 has been replaced with vinyl.

Calmac representatives were in the islands this week to meet with the North Uist community council to discuss their concerns about MV Finlaggan which has been covering the Uig/Tarbert/Lochmaddy route for the winter.

The community council was concerned about the level of delays and cancellations on the route over the season. A Calmac spokesperson said they acknowledged that punctuality had been an issue and said they would review the situation before deciding arrangements for vessel cover during next year’s annual refits.

Commenting on Monday night’s meeting, the Calmac spokesperson said: “We explained that the weather had been extremely bad at times across large parts of the network and that we are satisfied that the ship has performed as well as might have been expected in the circumstances and that we do not accept claims she was unsuitable for the route.”

He said the time keeping of the vessel had been down to a combination of factors from the weather to operational issues such as gangways and fuelling which have now been resolved.

“We reiterated that the decision to deploy the MV Finlaggan on this route had been taken with the best of intentions which was to improve winter reliability in remote and fragile communities in other parts of the network and this had been largely successful.

“The MV Hebrides will return to the Triangle in time for Easter and we will be reviewing how the refit programme has gone before deciding on how it will be managed next winter. We have given a commitment to return to meet the community to discuss our options for next year.”

Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd will hold public meetings next week to discuss the new ferry for the Stornoway/Ullapool route. Details of the new ferry and Port Infrastructure will be discussed. The meeting will take place in Stornoway Town Hall from 7-8pm on Tuesday February 26th.