Ileachs warn CalMac: ‘Hands off our ferry’

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Following a second fault in the MV Hebrides’ firefighting system in as many weeks, Islay Community Council’s Ferry Committee has told CalMac to keep its ‘hands off the Hebridean Isles’.

‘After the fiasco here last Thursday/Friday when the Hebridean Isles was removed, we have warned CalMac that there would be a public outcry if it was to even consider doing this to us again,’ the ferry group’s secretary Jim Porteous said.

‘The answer should never be simply to remove an Islay vessel and at minimal notice cancel the majority of its bookings so it can relieve elsewhere. There is a significant capacity issue at peak times even with two vessels.’

The CalMac ferry MV Hebrides was withdrawn from serving Tarbert, Lochmaddy and Uig again on Tuesday, after another fault in its fight-fighting system was found, just days after the last one was fixed.

One of Islay’s two ferries, the MV Hebridean Isles, was diverted to the ‘Uig Triangle’ on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week, cancelling half of the island’s lifeline services to the mainland.

The Argyllshire Advertiser understands 40 people slept in the cars on Wednesday night and Thursday morning as a consequence.

CalMac cancelled Uig-Tarbert-Uig services on Wednesday and Thursday, August 3 and 4, and gave The MV Lord of the Isles additional Lochboisdale-Armadale-Lochboisdale sailings on Wednesday and Thursday. All traffic has managed to be accommodated.

MV Hebrides departed Lochmaddy to sail to the Dales yard in Greenock, and work was set to start on Wednesday morning.

The MV Hebrides only recently returned to service on Friday July 29 after undergoing repairs to her CO2 firefighting system.

On Tuesday, CalMac confirmed: ‘All options for a relief vessel have been explored and vessels across the rest of the CalMac network will remain on their timetabled routes for the current time.’

Robbie Drummond, CalMac’s managing director, said: ‘Customers will understandably be upset about this latest disruption to their journeys, and I am deeply sorry for what they are going through.

‘Moving them onto other routes is far from ideal but without a spare vessel, this is the best option we have available.

‘We will find out what is causing this malfunction and get it fixed properly by a specialist team.

‘I would like to thank customers, including hauliers and businesses who have agreed to move bookings, for their patience and support at this very difficult time.

‘While we know this process is time consuming and frustrating for customers, our staff are doing their very best to help and should not be subjected to aggression or violent behaviour.’