AFTER nearly seven weeks of repairs and travel chaos, CalMac’s largest vessel has finally returned to the Ullapool-Stornoway route.
But she sailed another storm over the future direction of the crown corporation.
CalMac’s independent watchdog blasted the aging fleet’s lack of clear investment and resilience to breakdowns. Ironically, the MV Loch Seaforth is only seven years old.
The £ 42million vessel returned to the Stornoway ferry terminal on Sunday (May 30th) after lengthy sea trials after its engine repairs were completed at Gourock on Friday.
During the tracks she had been almost as far south as the Isle of Man and in the Atlantic north of the Butt of Lewis.
But the “dire consequences” of the ferry fiasco were described by the Community Ferry Council (Clyde and Hebrides) after a series of meetings with transport officials and ferry representatives.
President Angus Campbell said the name of the board – formerly CalMac’s community board – “now reflects an independent position.”
The Council said it had a positive first meeting with the new transport minister, Graeme Dey, who admitted last week that the islanders had suffered “intolerable” disruption.
The Council said in a statement: “The Minister confirmed that the situation in which island communities find themselves due to the lack of resilience of the fleet must be corrected.
“He understands the frustration and anger that exists throughout the network, and he is committed to doing whatever he can to improve the immediate situation and to work with stakeholders to plan for a more resilient and sustainable service to The future It was confirmed that the hiring proposals for the additional tonnage are at an advanced stage and other proposals for short and medium term improvements would be considered.
“The Minister also recognized the important role that the voice of communities can play in future planning and the benefits that an inclusive approach can bring to future developments. The Minister also wishes to maintain a good working relationship with the Ferries Community Board and the island communities they serve. .
“Our Council looks forward to working effectively with the Minister and other stakeholders to ensure that the unacceptable level of damage to the social and economic fabric of our islands across the network is not repeated.
“The board also had separate sessions with senior officials from Transport Scotland, the managing director of CMAL and the managing director of CalMac.
“Options were discussed around the condition and age of the fleet and in particular short-term alternative use options. Are there immediately other ways of working or changing the restrictions to gain capacity and can we understand what precludes more flexible solutions?
“Questions were asked about the dry docking as to whether all essential repairs had been completed and whether better investments in time and resources in the dry dock would prevent future outages.” There was general agreement that this would be a positive step, while recognizing that longer dry-docking periods would mean longer periods of vessel downtime unless we bring reserve tonnage to the fleet. .
“The council also underlined the need for a clear investment program based on the financing identified in the last budget. We have made it clear that the voices of communities must be heard in the formulation of the program. The best price-performance ratio must be achieved. and consideration given to whether all service requirements will be met within those resources within an acceptable timeframe.
“The council underscored to all parties the dire consequences of the current situation on communities, individuals and businesses and offered to work constructively to accelerate improvements that will meet the needs of our communities.”
CalMac CEO Robbie Drummond said, “We are working hard to get the network back to normal.”
He added: “We appreciate how difficult and disruptive the loss of Loch Seaforth has been for our communities and customers and we apologize again.”
MV Isle of Lewis and MV Hebridean Isles will be released from their relief duties at Stornoway.
The Lewis is due to return to Castlebay on Wednesday. His appearance will allow the MV Lord of the Isles – which operated a special combined South Uist and Barra service, diverted to Oban – to undertake shorter crossings from Uist to Mallaig.
During the change, new reservations on a number of routes may be unavailable as CalMac prioritizes existing reservations.
On Sunday, carriers battled the clock in an attempt to bring tens of thousands of pounds of premium fresh salmon to market after valuable shipments were stranded in Stornoway due to ferry issues.
Three containers of salmon and a truck of premium perishable shellfish – most of which are destined for the mainland – were left in Stornoway early Saturday morning when the CalMac designated relief cargo vessel, the MV Hebridean Isles, did not could not navigate due to a “technical problem”. “
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