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The two ferries about to be ordered to serve the Skye triangle route communities in the next few years will be better suited to provide the type of service the islands need.

That was the message at a public meeting in Tarbert on Thursday (November 24) from two bosses of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), the government-controlled corporate body that actually commissions and owns the ferries used by CalMac. 

They were joined by new CMAL board member Murdo Maclennan, from Point and Scarp, who also endorsed the plans which were shared as being the right ones for the Hebrides.

Two contracts to build the ferries are currently out to tender and an announcement on who will build them will be made before the end of the year or early in 2023. These ferries should be in service by 2025 or 2026.

He explained that with the well-known problems of the ongoing builds at Scotland’s only yard geared up to build ferries, the Ferguson yard in Port Glasgow, it was unlikely there would be work that would benefit the Scottish workforce.

Attendees were shown by CMAL director of vessels Jim Anderson the different configurations that can be used to take lorries and other vehicles as well as the new greener liquid natural gas (LNG) propulsion system which will be used - including a replacement system for propellers which should reduce fouling entanglements.

The CMAL bosses were wiling to acknowledge the problems caused by this year's many technical breakdowns and the inability of operator CalMac to find replacement vessels to stand in when boats were taken out of service. That was why two vessels were being ordered to bring extra capacity, they said.

At peak times, the two ferries will no longer sail a triangle but each one will ply between Uig and Lochmaddy, and Uig and Tarbert.

Managing director Kevin Hobbs said that they had representatives worldwide who were looking for vessels to buy with which sustain island services in the meantime. He also said CMAL had also been trying to lease vessels without success, adding they had never been able to lease a suitable boat as a fill-in.

 
 
Photographs by Iain Maciver