THE CALEDONIAN Mac-Brayne ferry Claymore, which was at the centre of the row over the new ferry service between Kintyre and Northern Ireland, will begin her working life under new colours furth of Scotland.

The Scottish Secretary earlier this year insisted that CalMac sell the Claymore at a reduced price of 750,000 to the private company Sea Containers to let it run the new service between Campbeltown and Ballycastle which is due to begin next July. This despite CalMac wanting to use the vessel to run the service itself having just spent #250,000 on a refit.

The ferry will be bought by Sea Containers on May 1 and according to a spokesman for Sea Containers will be transferred to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company for the first two months:

``We own the Isle of Man company which runs between the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and Liverpool. We hope to get the Claymore in time for the TT races to give a good boost the start of the season. She will then transfer back up in July when the new service starts to Ballycastle.''

A new company, the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company, has been formed as a subsidiary of Sea Containers to run the new route, he said.

``We expect about 80 jobs to be created by the new service between the ferry and those working at the terminals in Kintyre and Antrim. The seasonal service will offer two round trips each day, with a crossing time of just under three hours. The Claymore has a capacity for 300 passengers and 50 cars, or 30 cars and two coaches. The ship can also accommodate freight traffic.''

He said as part of the agreement the Claymore would be leased back to CalMac for the winter of 1997/98 while CalMac's replacement vessel was being completed.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise, meanwhile, believe that the service could mean 200 jobs when the employment it will create indirectly is included.

The proposed timetable for the ferry has the Claymore leaving Campbeltown for its first run at 8.00, arriving in Ballycastle at 11am. It would leave the Antrim port at 11.45 arriving back in Campbeltown at 14.45pm. The last scheduled sailing from Scotland would leave Campbeltown at 15.30 arriving at 18.30 in Ballycastle, where it would leave at 19.15 arriving in Campbeltown at 22.15.

Hamish Ross, managing director of the Argyll and Antrim Steam Packet Company, who also manages Sea Containers' other interests in the Irish Sea: SeaCat Scotland between Stranraer and Belfast; the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company; and the Port of Heysham, said yesterday ``The new Campbeltown/Ballycastle service will become an important link between Ireland and Argyll and the Scottish Highlands and Islands. research has shown there to be a significant tourist market.''