Ferry operator CalMac has this afternoon (Wednesday November 13th) said it is doing everything possible to tackle ‘severe problems’ currently affecting West Coast and island routes.
CalMac boss Robbie Drummond said staff are working round the clock to get Scotland's West Coast ferry service back to normal.
Progress is being made in a bid to get two major ferries back on their routes following technical problems. A period of bad weather, technical breakdowns and the annual overhaul programme have led to severe problems on CalMac's network.
The MV Loch Seaforth remains out of service due to technical issues which emerged en route to Stornoway after completing her annual dry dock overhaul and the MV Isle of Arran is also awaiting specialist contractors finishing work that will see her return to operation.
Calmac Managing Director Robbie Drummond said: "Technical problems and bad weather have hit us hard in the past few days. However, we have our people working round the clock to bring in contractors and to get our service back to normal as soon as possible.
"We know the impact not having these services is having on our island communities and all our focus is on fixing these problems. We are working extremely hard to keep traffic moving within the available fleet resources we have but realise that there will be some inconvenience for passengers which we apologise for."
A number of external suppliers and specialist engineers have been brought in to fix the technical issues. It is hoped that this will be achieved before the weekend.
The MV Isle of Lewis will remain on the Ullapool-Stornoway route until the situation is resolved.
Amended timetables are being put place on these routes for the remainder of the week and some sailings are being operated by alternative vessels.
Robbie added: "We have just instigated our biggest ever programme of overhaul and refit aimed at making our service more resilient. As it happens we are in the peak of that dry dock refit process which has also had an impact on the vessels available to us.
"We have also put in place our own in-house mobile maintenance team and that has made a huge difference to supporting the fleet. I am confident that we can sort these issues quickly and get back to providing our much-needed lifeline services."
The routes affected are Oban-Castlebay and Stornoway-Ullapool.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant demanded that the First Minister listen to the increasingly desperate pleas from communities for improved lifeline ferry services at First Minister Questions on Thursday 14 November 2019.
In the week beginning 11 November 2019 there were disruptions to 25 out of 28 services across Scotland’s network. Something which Mrs Grant said was “unacceptable.”
Mrs Grant said to Ms Sturgeon: “The First Minister will be aware of the chaos that has been caused in the Western and Argyll islands due to the breakdown of the Loch Seaforth and the inadequate ferry provision.
“This has been exacerbated by boats being moved onto routes that they are not suitable for meaning that they cannot sail in poor weather.
“Will she now listen to islanders and ensure that there is enough suitable boats to provide these lifeline services.”
But the First Minister cited poor weather conditions for the turmoil and said the Scottish Government had invested “heavily” in ferry infrastructure and services.
Mrs Grant said: “The First Minister claims that the SNP have spent £2billion on ferry infrastructure and services, but if that’s the case they have very poor results to show for it. Their vanity projects have sapped money from sustainable ferry procurement.
“These services are continuously failing the communities they serve because they are under too much strain and poorly managed. Crews and staff are doing the best they can with what they’ve been given, but clearly the Scottish Government’s strategy is just to throw money at headline grabbing vanity projects and hope no one notices that they are not doing the job required.”
(This report has been updated since first being posted)