MSP questions suitability of MV Loch Seaforth for the Stornoway to Ullapool route

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Highlands and Islands Regional MSP Rhoda Grant has ascertained by means of a Freedom of Information request that the MV Loch Seaforth, which sails between Stornoway and Ullapool, has had to cancel 68 sailings due to adverse weather between July and December 2018.

In this period the ship was also chronically late on its runs with 134 instances of being between 15 and 59 minutes beyond its scheduled time and 40 sailings delayed for over an hour.

The statistics reveal that almost a quarter (23%) of the MV Loch Seaforth’s scheduled runs in this six month period were impacted by cancellation due to weather, other issues, or were late.

Rhoda Grant said: “After such a huge investment having being spent on this vessel, I am somewhat concerned to learn that 68 sailings were cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.

“Yes, I appreciate that this is a call that the Master or Captain of the vessel will make, taking cognisance of all other surrounding factors, but this number seems to me to be particularly high for a new vessel over a six month period and makes me wonder if the vessel is actually fit for purpose.

“Of course they get pretty severe weather out in the Minch, but is it so bad that so many sailings have to be cancelled? I would have thought that these factors would have been considered when they designed the build.”

A spokesman for Calmac pointed out that in the last audited year the cancellation of sailings due to the weather was a mere 0.48% of total sailings.

He added: “‘While weather cancellations are frustrating for everyone, the safety of passengers and crew has to be the number one consideration.

“It is entirely at the discretion of the ship’s master whether or not to sail based on factors such as sea well, wind speed and direction and their experience of sailing in the unpredictable waters of the west coast.”