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News that a charter has been agreed for the freight vessel MV Arrow for the Stornoway to Ullapool route has been welcomed by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.
The Scottish Government has confirmed the vessel will operate a number of overnight freight sailings, allowing the MV Loch Seaforth to provide additional passenger sailings at busy times during the summer.
The MV Arrow completed berthing trials over the weekend and CalMac will confirm details of its deployment soon.
The islands MSP has repeatedly called for more capacity on the route and had raised the availability of the vessel with the Transport Minister.
Mr Allan said: ‘This vessel will provide much-needed additional capacity on a route which is coming under significant pressure – especially in the summer. I am grateful to the Transport Minister for listening to the representations I, and others, have been making on this issue.
‘The lack of bookable ferry capacity has been having a real impact on all aspects of island life. I hope the extra capacity this vessel will free up, along with the easing of the social distancing rules over the next few weeks, will make it much easier to get on and off island.
‘Clearly this does not address every problem the ferry service is currently facing. I am conscious of the pressures on other routes to and from the Western Isles, which I continue to raise with CalMac and the government, but the MV Arrow represents an important step forward.’
Minister for Transport Graeme Dey said the Scottish Government recognised communities’ frustration at the recent disruption and the impact it is having.
‘We are doing everything we can to support CalMac to maximise available capacity across the network,’ he added.
‘The Scottish Government will continue to engage with ferry operators and island stakeholders on issues impacting the recovery of the island economies from the impact of the Covid pandemic.’
Robert Morrison, Operations Director for CalMac, said: ‘We have been working closely with Transport Scotland to investigate the feasibility of leasing extra vessels and the addition of the MV Arrow is extremely welcome.
‘The chartering of the MV Arrow will help provide much-needed resilience at a time when Covid restrictions remain in place and there is high demand for spaces on board our ferries.’
CAPTION: CalMac logo
Extra pic: Chartering the freight vessel MV Arrow for the Stornoway to Ullapool route will allow the MV Loch Seaforth to provide additional passenger sailings at busy times during the summer.