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Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed the announcement that two vessels will be ordered, not one as previously announced, as part of the Islay ferry project being taken forward by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL).
Commenting following the announcement by CMAL that they have invited four shipyards to bid for the contract to build two new ferries for Islay, chairman of transportation Councillor Uisdean Robertson said: ‘It is welcome that two additional ferries will be joining the CalMac fleet meaning there will be an opportunity to cascade MV Finlaggan to another route.
‘Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would welcome the opportunity to work with CMAL, CalMac and Transport Scotland on finding the best route for any vessel cascade and note that operating Finlaggan as a second ferry on Lochmaddy and Tarbert routes in summer would be welcome.
‘A second ferry on this route had been requested by the Harris Transport Forum in its recent meeting with the transport minister.
‘At the same time the vessel could be used as a relief ferry throughout the winter.
‘It is now imperative that CalMac engages with the comhairle and other community interests in the Outer Hebrides and the west coast around the best deployment of the additional vessels.
‘Many of the challenges we have seen with ferries over the past period has arisen from a failure to engage with and listen to local authorities and other local interests in the communities served by the ferries.
‘It is essential that CalMac listens to the local intelligence and knowledge around deployment and capacity in order to alleviate the unacceptable ferry chaos we have seen over the past period and the consequent devastating social and economic impacts.
‘The comhairle stands ready to work with CalMac and others to help return stability and reliability to the service.’
CMAL hopes to award the contract to the winning shipyard at the end of March 2022.