Just another manic Monday at CalMac

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It was been a nightmare start to the week for CalMac and its passengers this week, as ferry overhauls and breakdowns led to cancellations across the network.

Monday’s CalMac ferry sailing from Oban to Coll and Tiree was cancelled due to ‘essential repairs’ to the MV Lord of the Isles.

Further cancellations are expected later this month. CalMac said: ‘Due to an extension of the overhaul programme, which resulted in a delay to the start of MV Hebrides docking, MV Lord of the Isles will continue to operate on this route as per published winter timetable.

‘Therefore, on Friday March 25 and Wednesday March 30 the service is cancelled.’

Meanwhile, Monday’s sailings to Iona were also cancelled due to a technical issue with the MV Loch Buie. The MV Loch Linnhe was redeployed to provide a lifeline service.

Monday’s morning sailing between Kennacraig and Islay was also cancelled after the MV Isle of Arran picked up an object in her starboard propeller, requiring divers to fix it. A relief vessel is operating on the route between March 2-24 due to MV Finlaggan’s overhaul.

Sunday and Monday’s sailings from Leverburgh to Berneray were also cancelled due to a technical issue with MV Loch Bhrusda. A passenger-only charter operated between the Fisherman’s Pier at Berneray and the Pontoons at Leverburgh Pier.

The Oban to Lochboisdale service has also been cancelled from March 6-31, due to an extension of the overhaul programme.

Last week Barra’s biggest employer Barratlantic, run by Donald Joseph MacLean, called the current timetable cancellations the ‘worst in living memory’.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday morning, Mr MacLean said: ‘We rely 100 per cent on the ferry services, we are the biggest employers on the island, if the ferry decides not to go then it causes us huge problems.

‘It is the worst I have known it. The worst in living memory.

‘If the ferry decides it is not going to come for a week, then people are without urgent supplies.’

Gillian Hamill, who works in the local shop, which sells fresh produce to the island’s 1,300 inhabitants, said the van that brings her grocery goods can sometimes be stuck in Oban for a couple of day, because the five-hour ferry to Barra is cancelled due to bad weather or breakdowns.

‘That means the fruit and veg can go off and has to be chucked,’ she told the BBC. ‘When the van gets here there is not a lot that is saveable. It’s quite soul destroying.’

Robbie Drummond, CalMac’s managing director, said: ‘Our services are completely stretched and unfortunately, we do not have any spare vessels we can use during times of technical issues.’