The planned charter of an additional ferry on CalMac’s fleet has been delayed.
MV Alfred, which is owned by Pentland Ferries, was set to join the CalMac fleet on a nine month charter from April 18.
However a second vessel owned by Pentland Ferries, the MV Pentalina, which was to cover her Pentland Firth route, does not yet have a safety certificate in place.
The MV Pentalina is currently awaiting legal approval to undertake passenger duties and remains at the pier in Belfast while outstanding issues are dealt with.
CalMac said it expected the delay was expected to be short, and it would not affect customer bookings.
Earlier this week, inspectors from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) carried out what was meant to be final surveys to ensure the Pentalina is safe and stable to undertake commercial voyages.
Pentland Ferries confirmed that MV Pentalina was due to have her passenger certificate issued on Friday by the MCA following completion of overhaul.
However, MCA has not provided this due to what is described as “some small outstanding” items.
Robbie Drummond, Chief Executive of CalMac, said: “We are disappointed at the news that MV Alfred will not join the CalMac fleet as planned on Tuesday April 18.
“Pentland Ferries confirmed that MV Pentalina was due to have her passenger certificate (PC) issued yesterday by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency following completion of overhaul. However, MCA has not provided this due to some small outstanding items. This means she cannot depart Belfast to cover Pentland services, so MV Alfred is required to cover those routes.
“The PC is expected to be issued early next week and we have been advised that any delay will be short. There will not be any impact to our service plans or customer bookings, as we have not scheduled MV Alfred in to provide any services.
“Once MV Alfred is released, we will proceed with berthing and sea trials across the network as planned.”
Managing director of Pentland Ferries, Helen Inkster, said: “Despite our very best efforts, I can confirm that the passenger ship safety certificate has not been issued by MCA this week as we had hoped. A very rigorous inspection of the vessel has continued over recent days and while we have been able to deal with the majority of issues identified in the inspection, there remain items that we cannot resolve in time for the vessel to return to Orkney this weekend.
“Over recent weeks, events that were outwith our control have hampered progress. The initial plan for dry docking in Greenock – thus allowing ample time for MCA to survey the vessel and any deficiencies to be addressed before returning to service – unfortunately had to be abandoned as the work could not be completed within our time slot. An alternative dry dock in Belfast was sourced and the ship was due to be docked on March 8. This was pushed back to March 28 as a result of a delay to the vessel ahead of us vacating the dock. These delays took us into the Easter break when there was a shortage of yard workers available to complete the works. The next issue related to the resealing of the shafts, which led to flooding being abandoned and a wait for a weather window to place the vessel back on the blocks, bringing subsequent delays to the completion of the survey by MCA.
“It is essential that our vessels meet all safety standards and we are grateful to both MCA for their very thorough inspection and to the crew of MV Pentalina for the unwavering support and hard work during this time.
“We have worked tirelessly to achieve the deadline for the commencement of the MV Alfred’s charter to CalMac and I very much regret that there will now be a short delay to the planned date for releasing the vessel.
“We will be doing everything we can to minimise the delay, but in the meantime MV Alfred will continue to operate our service between Orkney and mainland Scotland.”