ISLANDERS have questioned the reliability of a 27-year-old vessel after bad weather in 2013 caused the highest number of cancellations on the main ferry service to Mull in 15 years.

Figures show that the car ferry the Isle of Mull, which plies between Oban and Craignure, lost 80 sailings last year. But operator CalMac said that was out of a possible 3842 sailings throughout the whole year.

Michael Shilson, chairman of the local community council, said the islanders often saw other CalMac ferries such as the Lord of the Isles and the Clansman sailing when their own was cancelled, so questioned whether the Isle of Mull was up to it.

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He said there was also the feeling that there was a fear of litigation if somebody on the ferry was injured.

"It is the captain's responsibility if something goes wrong and he could lose his job and pension," he said.

A spokesman for CalMac said the winter of 2013/14 had been one of the worst ever seen with high winds and stormy seas battering every part of the network for weeks on end. However the Oban/Craignure service had not been hit worse other parts of the west coast.

He said: "Eighty is the highest number of recorded weather cancellations since 1999, but only slightly ahead of the last very bad year which was 2011 with 74 cancellations."

He said the decision to cancel was never taken lightly by skippers who always put the safety of passengers, crew and the vessel first. CalMac did not accept the ferry Isle of Mull was not 'fit for purpose.' The cancellations were more of a reflection of changing weather patterns, he said.