MV Loch Frisa set for ship-shape commuter route

Former Mull councillor Mary-Jean Devon had the honours of re-naming the new Loch Frisa ferry at Craignure this week

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CalMac’s latest boat with a price tag of £10.5 million launched this week with the promise of all-year round commuter travel between Oban and Mull.

Former Mull councillor Mary-Jean Devon had the honour of launching and renaming the MV Loch Frisa at Craignure on Monday using a 12-year-old bottle of Tobermory whisky in the ceremony in front of invited guests including dignitaries and crew.

Mrs Devon said Loch Frisa’s arrival had been long-looked forward to by islanders and would be ‘life-changing’.

For decades, islanders have been wanting and pushing for a second boat for the winter time-table service and at last they have got it.

She said it would also be life changing for giving work opportunities to islanders who no longer had to go off island for employment. About two-thirds of the crew already live on Mull – remaining staff are still searching for accommodation, some are temporarily in hotels.

Mrs Devon also gave a nod to Ross of Mull crofter Ronnie Campbell who had chaired the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee for years and had first raised the question of a second boat decades ago to work all year round on the route.

‘Ronnie is sadly no longer with us, but he would have been glad to see his work and the work of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee that he chaired for many years was not in vain. It is good to see the boat finally here,’ she said.

Guests on Monday had to wait just a little longer than planned while crew practiced opening the new ramp that was one of the major modifications made during a £4.5 million refurbishment at Leith – other work included fitting a sewage plant to make it worthy for Scottish seas.

The vessel, built in Turkey and formerly called MV Utne, previously operated in Norway and was the first pre-used boat to be purchased to join the CalMac fleet out of 650 second-hand boats offered in the past six years, said CMal chief executive Kevin Hobbs.

Mr Hobbs said the quest continues to find more second-hand boats for routes around Scotland.

Plans are to ‘slowly, slowly’ bring the Loch Frisa into service, he said. If final sea trials go well, including  the loading and unloading of vehicles, she could be ferrying passengers and vehicles by the middle of this month.

Winners of an art competition for primary schools were also among guests, receiving prizes for their pictures that will be permanently on show aboard the boat. A specially commissioned painting was unveiled too. The winners were P1 pupil Darcy and P7 pupil Izzy from Tobermory Primary School and P5 pupil Hazel from Ulva Primary School.

Thanks was given to everyone who worked hard to bring the MV Loch Frisa into service.

The Loch Frisa cost the Scottish Government £6 million in October and it was ‘wonderful’ to see her come onto the route, said Mr Hobbs, adding it had ‘not been easy’ because of Covid and getting parts needed from abroad, including China.

MV Coruisk, the boat Frisa is replacing, will be moved onto the Mallaig to Armadale route.

Flags out for Loch Frisa at Craignure, due to start the Oban-Craignure run mid-June
About two-thirds of the Loch Frisa crew are from Mull
MV Loch Frisa at sea
CMal chief executive Kevin Hobbs with P1 Tobermory Primary School pupil Darcy who won an art competition to show her work on MV Loch Frisa
Former Mull councillor Mary-Jean Devon renames the MV Loch Frisa
Artwork winner Izzy, a P7 Tobermory Primary School pupil, with CMal chief executive Kevin Hobbs
Artwork winner Hazel, a P5 Ulva Primary School pupil, with CMal chief executive Kevin Hobbs

You can watch MV Loch Frisa being renamed by former councillor Mary-Jean Devon here: