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Specialist engineers working on the stricken Ullapool-Stornoway ferry MV Loch Seaforth have advised that they expect her to back in service by May 17 at the earliest. 

This date is subject to change, says CalMac this afternoon (Friday April 23) , and "we will continue to keep our customers informed throughout."

A team is currently carrying out repairs to the engines on the vessel at the James Watt dock in Greenock. 

CalMac say passenger bookings will have to be carefully managed until the MV Loch Seaforth is back in service and the summer timetable resumes. 

While Ardrossan-Brodick will remain as a one-vessel route for the time being, sailings on the Lochranza-Claonaig route have increased, doubling in capacity, offering an alternative to accessing Arran or the mainland. 

Any passengers required to attend last-minute medical appointments will always be accommodated on CalMac routes. This includes free taxi journeys to and from the ferry terminal and their NHS destination. 

There have been widespread demands for someone, anyone, to do something concrete to resolve the crisis…and many suggestions have involving hiring in the Pentland Ferries vessel Pentalina

CalMac say: "While the Pentalina may be an option for a longer-term hire, and this is being actively considered by CalMac and Transport Scotland, she is not immediately available while the Loch Seaforth is being repaired. She is only available for active service four weeks from when the required charter agreement is signed. 

"A combined timetable has also been tailored to allow shellfish to be transported from Barra and South Uist to the mainland in time to get to fish markets. 

"Planning and allocating spaces for commercial customers in advance has meant that we are able to meet the demand as it is presented for shipping at ports."

Robbie Drummond, Managing Director, said: “Clearly, the loss of the MV Loch Seaforth and how this has affected other services has caused a lot of disruption to customers, and we are so sorry about this. We are working closely with local businesses to make sure that all demand for travel is being met, and I am most grateful to them for their support, patience and understanding as we deal with this situation. 

“We are confident that the MV Loch Seaforth will be back in service in a matter of weeks and the normal summer timetable will be back up and running as planned.” 

SNP candidate for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has again called for MV Pentalina to be chartered by Calmac to boost ferry capacity in the Western Isles. 

Alasdair Allan said today: “The service at the moment is clearly unacceptable. In addition to the obvious impact on Lewis, the reshuffling of vessels is causing problems in both South Uist and Barra as those communities seek to cope with reduced services.

“Despite the fact that MV Pentalina would not be available until next month, I believe that there is clear need for her – or any other suitable vessel - to be chartered for CalMac routes. We are heading into what should be a busy time with families reuniting after lockdown and tourism businesses getting off the ground again. We need an additional vessel to ensure there is enough resilience in the fleet to get through the summer without any major interruptions.

“I spoke to CalMac this morning and have again stressed the need for action on these problems. They have engaged with the owners of the Pentalina as well as Transport Scotland. I hope that the opportunity is now taken to find a solution.”

Islanders have been “repeatedly misled” about the availability of a relief vessel to ease the pressure on CalMac’s troubled fleet, Labour candidate Shaun Fraser said today.
Mr Fraser said he had seen documentary evidence that the Scottish Ministers and CMAL were told last November that the mv Pentalina was available for charter from Pentland Ferries and that this had not changed in the meantime.
He challenged the former MSP, Alasdair Allan, to say if he had ever made any independent inquiries about the availability of the Pentalina or any other charter vessel “while the fragile economy of his constituency is falling apart”.
Mr Fraser said: “It is crucial to remember that this crisis did not begin with the Loch Seaforth breakdown. Barra and South Uist have been suffering for months and the Pentalina could have gone a long way to resolving that issue.
“SNP Ministers are still in office but are now in hiding.  They must tell the people of the Western Isles why the Pentalinawas not chartered. To say now that it would take four weeks to get her ready is a pathetic excuse for doing nothing over many months”.
Mr Fraser welcomed the decision of local hauliers to charter a vessel themselves. He said: “Every candidate should support this initiative which again highlights the complete lack of representation at Holyrood that the Western Isles have suffered from”.

Meanwhile, ballot papers for postal voters in Na h-Eileanan an Iar have started arriving on doormats, ready for the Scottish Parliament election on Thursday 6 May 2021.

Malcolm Burr, Constituency Returning Officer, said: “When you receive your postal voting pack, make sure you read and follow the instructions carefully before completing your ballot papers. Don’t forget to include your date of birth and signature on the postal voting statement.  Follow the instructions in the pack to make sure your vote counts”

“Postal ballot papers must be received by the Returning Officer by 10pm on Thursday 6 May 2021.  As soon as you have completed your ballot papers and postal vote statement place it in the envelope provided and return it to make sure that it is received in good time.”

Name of Candidate

Description of Candidate

ALLAN, Alasdair James

Scottish National Party (SNP)


The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

FRASER, Shaun Alexander

Scottish Labour Party


Time for Change


Scottish Liberal Democrats