CalMac 'cannot guarantee' all vessels will remain in service

The ferry operator said they wanted 'all vessels to be available' but were unable to guarantee all would be ready to set sail.

Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne has warned it cannot say for certain that further vessels will not be removed from service in future.

The firm’s managing director, Robbie Drummond, said that he wanted “all vessels to be available” but cautioned that may not be possible amid claims the reduction in crossings had cost some businesses on Iona and Mull up to £1.5m.

It comes as state-owned CalMac’s ageing fleet comes under pressure, with the ferry operator having recently been forced to cancel sailings to the island of South Uist for most of June.

Meanwhile, it waits delivery of two new ferries being constructed at the Ferguson Marine yard in Port Glasgow, which are years late and massively overbudget.

Drummond hosted a community meeting on Uist earlier this week, allowing the public to put questions over future operations to him directly.

However, he said no guarantees could be given over the future of the service.

“We want all our vessels to be available and providing full service,” he said.

“What I can guarantee is that we’ll look now at how we make decision in the future and we’ve already committed to consulting on exactly how we would do that.

“We are committed to recognising the strength of feeling in the community, and particularly the challenges and disruption they faced all through the period of June.”

A third of South Uist’s population turned up to the ferry terminal earlier this month to protest against the service’s cancellation for most of June.

Demand for action has been increasing following CalMac’s cancellation of ferries between the mainland port in Mallaig and Lochboisdale, with local businesses estimating a loss of £50,000 per day due to tourism, and imports and exports being hit by the cut.

Donnie Steel, owner of Uist Gifts and Information, said his business would have to close by the end of the year if services are not restored to their normal frequency.

He added: “We have seen two ferries this year during our opening times.

“There’s no point in ferries for us at six in the morning and coming in at 9pm.

“We know that if there is any more interruptions with the Lochboisdale service, we will not see next year.”

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