SCOTLAND’S busiest ferry crossing has ground to a halt for safety reasons in a move that could lead to six weeks of disruption over a busy school holiday period.

Fifteen sailings between Brodick on the isle of Arran and Ardrossan have been cancelled since Sunday and the first sailings of tomorrow have already been dropped because of a fault with the aging ferry's mooring equipment.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Ferry out of action.Camley's Cartoon: Ferry out of action.

On Tuesday there were no sailings at all during the day, with the first seven journeys cancelled. Only the 4.40pm from Brodick and another to return to the island were able to operate as CalMac said it needed to berth on the island overnight.

The first sailings of tomorrow have already been dropped with no news of any further crossings expected till after a 10am review. Travellers are being warned all services are liable to disruption or cancellation at short notice.

READ MORE: Multiple port problems force Scotland's busiest ferry off course

CalMac said the issue is with the mooring winch gearbox which means the vessel is "unable to safely berth during periods of adverse weather". Repairs are expected to take six weeks.

HeraldScotland:

On top of that, a fault with both mezzanine decks, means the 1000 passenger and 110 car capacity of the vessel will be cut until repairs can be carried out.

The latest calamity to hit CalMac's MV Caledonian Isles has angered islanders who have demanded a long overdue temporary replacement to allow vital supplies and drugs to reach the largest island in the Firth of Clyde.

It comes as CalMac bosses have said the £300m ferries "shambles" at Ferguson Marine's shipyard in Port Glasgow is causing knock-on 'major disruption' for island communities up and down the west coast of Scotland.

Dual fuel replacement Arran ferry Glen Sannox and her as yet unnamed sister were due to enter service in mid-2018 but the calamitous contract has doubled in price and work on the vessels won't be finished until at least 2022.

Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow was handed a £97 million contract to build two the ferries in 2015.

Meanwhile it has emerged more than 1,000 CalMac sailings were cancelled in 2019 because of mechanical problems.

Gavin Fulton, chairman of Arran's ferry action group said the latest calamity is the latest in a long line of issues with the aging ferry.

He said: "Things are going from bad to worse for us and there is no contingency plan. There is no word of chartering a boat, or to buy one abroad. It is a case of waiting 18 months for a new ferry and we have to put up with it. It is absolutely dreadful, an absolute shambles.

"Patients on the island are spending three, four or five days on the mainland, just to get to a hospital appointment. "All we get is silence. The boats are old, they are breaking down all the time and it can only get worse.

HeraldScotland:

"We don't need a perfect boat. We just need a boat, with a motor, that runs. We are not looking for a cruise liner.

"It wouldn't matter if it was a landing craft, as long as the truck with the food and the delivery van with the drugs can get on and off the island, and a few passengers can make it for their appointments."

CalMac’s director of operations, Robert Morrison said: "An issue with the MV Caledonian isles mooring gearbox is likely to restrict her ability to berth in certain weather conditions which will lead to disruption while we source the required spare parts. We apologise to passengers for any inconvenience this may cause."

Ardrossan-Brodick is CalMac’s busiest route, carrying 841,000 of its 5.25m passengers last year.

In the beginning of February, there were at least three days of disruption with an engine fault on the MV Caledonian Isles cited as a major cause.

HeraldScotland:

The ferry leaves for Ardrossan at just before 4.40pm on Tuesday

Mid-February cancellations were caused by poor weather and what the ferry operator describes as the failure of a navigational aid.  And further cancellations later in the month were put down to bad weather.

In October, the crossing had to be rerouted indefinitely after the vehicle gangways failed and a usual fallback option was out of service.

CalMac sailings to and from were cancelled after both gangways, or linkspans failed in what is understood to be a problem with their hydraulics.

The MV Caledonian Isles to and from Brodick on the isle of Arran would ordinarily have been switched to Gourock instead, but the linkspan there has been out of action for the last three weeks.

The Arran service was forced to use Troon as “an emergency port”, even though it lacks passenger and parking facilities, as it is principally a cargo port.