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Two broken-down ferries beside the causeway to Berneray Photo: Robert Sinclair

The truly pathetic level of investment in the ferry services serving the islands was exposed again late yesterday (Monday October 9) when the ancient replacement for the aged Loch Portain ferry itself broke down leaving the Sound of Harris again without a ferry service. 

The MV Loch Bhrusda - which had spent days battling its way north against the weather to end the weeklong blockade of the ferry ports – is now 27 years old – while the MV Loch Portain is 20 years old. 

CalMac announced last night: "Unfortunately, due to an issue with the Navigational System on MV Loch Bhrusda the vessel has been removed from service tomorrow.

"Engineers have been arranged to attend to carry out a repair as soon as possible.

"The weather is not suitable for MV Loch Portain to operate due to their weather limitations for operating on 3 engines.

"The following sailings are cancelled for vehicle traffic

Tuesday 10 October

  • Departs Berneray – 08:00, 10:50 and 15:00
  • Departs Leverburgh – 09:25, 12:15 and 16:25

A passenger-only charter will operate departing from the Fishery Pier in Berneray and from the Pontoons in Leverburgh.

And the Loch Alainn, which is 16 years old, is also out of action, meaning there are no ferries between Barra and Eriskay before late morning  tomorrow at the earliest 

CalMac states: "Due to the technical issue with the aft main unit, all sailings for the remainder of the day have been cancelled.

"We are currently exploring options to provide a passenger charter and we will provide an update when more information is available.

And tomorrow (Wednesday 11 October) they say: "Due to essential ramp repairs being completed on Tuesday night, the following sailings are liable to disruption or cancellation: 

  • Depart Barra – 07:00
  • Depart Eriskay – 08:10 

An update on further sailings on Wednesday will be provided at 20:30 (Tuesday 10 October).