Island communities face economic blow as feared ferry chaos looms

The MV Caledonian Isles is likely to be out of action until mid summer - causing chaos as other services are redeployed.

CalMac is already struggling to cope with serious shortage of ships and now it has been confirmed one of its older vessels, MV Caledonian Isles, is likely to be out of action until mid summer or longer to undertake £5m of substantial steelwork repairs.

Many routes across the CalMac network will be affected and not just on the Caledonian Isles’ own Ardrossan to Brodick service, as vessels are reshuffled to try and provide even more reduced levels of service.

CalMac faces tough decisions and acknowledges the situation will cause “concern and frustration for communities across the whole network”, adding it apologises for the situation.

Controversial proposals to take ships away from some communities to cover gaps elsewhere have been raised in a snap consultation across the west coast.

Options for three scenarios have been drawn up for an inevitable reshuffling of the depleted fleet to tackle the serious dilemma of operating without the major vessel.

On Tuesday, CalMac is due to reveal its final contingency decisions and altered timetables.

Under one plan, the Campbeltown service could be cancelled due to a lack of relief vessels.  

One contentious option is to leave Harris and Uist with a reduced service on the busy Skye triangle run by redeploying their ferry, MV Hebrides, to the island of Arran. Her replacement, MV Alfred – chartered from Pentland Ferries at a £1m monthly cost – faces constraints and would not cope with high holiday season demand.

Residents in Barra are furious at a suggestion to send their ferry, MV Isle of Lewis, to the Clyde to operate Troon to Brodick sailings.

This week, CalMac will reveal which communities will receive a diminished service. Amended timetables for the summer timetable period are also expected to be published.

Finalised re-shaped summer deployment plans are expected to be unveiled on Tuesday.

Robbie Drummond, chief executive of CalMac, said: “We know the fact we are having to redeploy vessels has caused concern in communities across the whole network, and I would like to thank everyone for their understanding and for taking the time to provide their views on several potential redeployment options.

“Given our fleet was already stretched to the limit, it is inevitable the loss of one of our larger vessels during peak season will cause some disruption across the wider network.

“But our team has been working hard to evaluate what we can do for our summer timetable to minimise that disruption. Any decisions on vessel deployment are not taken lightly.

“The network will soon benefit from new vessels which will help to provide the resilient service communities deserve. Until they are operational, we will continue to do whatever we can to provide a reliable service.”

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