ISLANDERS have called for the “urgent replacement” of what will be the oldest CalMac ferry in the fleet.

The Mull & Iona Ferry Committee pressure group is pressing for an acceleration on proposals to upgrade the Isle of Mull ferry which is claimed to be the most congested of CalMac’s services.

The committee said: “Mull’s main ferry was launched in 1987, and at 34 years old she is among the most elderly vessels in the CalMac major vessel fleet.

“Only the Hebridean Isles and Isle of Arran are older, and both have replacements either in construction or procurement now.”

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The group also said: “The process of procuring a new ferry takes a long time, even if things go according to plan. For example two new vessels for Islay are currently at tender stage, and should be delivered in 2024.

"Initial government commitment for the Islay replacement was given in 2018 by the then-Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, so the entire process will have taken around six years by the time the vessels are delivered."

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It added: “We should expect a similar time-line, which would put delivery in 2027. At that point the Isle of Mull will be 40 years old, and the longest-served major CalMac ferry in history. And as we all know, we have the most congested service in the entire CalMac network. Clearly, replacement is now urgent and very much overdue.

"There has been lots of criticism of recent ferry procurement – not just because it has been so slow and the fleet is now older than ever – but because other islands have felt that they have had frustratingly little input into the vessels that have been delivered.

“This criticism was echoed in the 2020 parliamentary enquiry into ferry  procurement. We want to make sure those mistakes are not repeated on Mull and Iona.”