SCOTLAND'S crisis hit lifeline ferry network has come under fresh fire after a new series of breakdowns and setbacks with five of its fleet leading to service cancellations and restrictions as new pressure is put on ministers to take urgent action.

The Herald can reveal that a temporary replacement freight ferry for the Ullapool-Stornoway route - considered too small because it only had space for four lorries - has itself had to be replaced leading to three days of sailing cancellations.

One disgusted Lewis haulier DR Macleod told the Herald that on Friday it had 15 trailers of goods including fresh produce like fish and other food products backed up on Stornoway because of the failure and has condemned the services as "shockingly inadequate".

Martin Reid, Road Haulage Association director for Scotland and Northern Ireland said: "It is nothing short of a disgrace that they find themselves in this position."

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: 'National scandal': CalMac ferry network in crisis as four boats break down in three weeks

The 38-year-old MV Isle of Arran - which normally runs on the Ardrossan to Arran route - was brought in to provide a makeshift freight service on the Ullapool-Stornoway crossing on April 21 after ferry operator CalMac's largest ferry MV Loch Seaforth was taken into dry dock for "major" engine repairs.

The eight-year-old vessel was initially expected to be back in service on Tuesday, but is now not expected to be back in service till May 17 at the earliest.

Now it has emerged even the Isle of Arran has problems - with its stabilisers - and has had to be removed from from the run to be replaced by the the 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles, causing cancellations on its usual Kennacraig to Islay.

It meant that all crucial freight sailings between Ullapool and Stornoway were cancelled three days from Wednesday and future services have had to be amended.

The Isle of Arran, which normally operates as the second operating ferry to Brodick is from yesterday operating the "more sheltered" Islay run.

According to the Arran Recovery Group, the shifting of the Arran ferry for the start of the summer tourist season will cost the island more than £500,000 in lost business.

It is one of five ferry issues in the past two weeks that have caused either cancelled journeys or travel restrictions.

This weekend, the 23-year-old car ferry MV Clansman which runs the Oban-Coll-Tiree route will be out of action because a shaft needs replaced and an amended timetable is in place. The MV Hebridean Isles which normally runs between Kennacraig and Islay will be covering from Saturday night to Sunday night.

It comes two weeks after it returned to Oban with all services cancelled for the rest of the day after it developed a fault. CalMac said at the time that the issue was being investigated.

Donald Macleod, managing director of Lewis hauliers DR Macleod, which operates a trailer fleet of between 90 and 100,  said: "They have tried to put together a mish-mash of smaller vessels for the isle of Lewis which is being supplemented by the isle of Arran which itself has subsequently broken down. "We have been three days without a freight service.

HeraldScotland:

"It just highlights the shortcomings of this government in terms of the ferry services to the islands, it has just been shocking.

"Catamarans are an option. This situation would not be tolerated in anything other the monopoly situation that the Scottish Government currently possesses. They own the ferries, they own the routes, they own the shipyard, there is no competition.

"I have 15 trailers backed up and others will also be in the same position.

"CalMac will say they have been contacted all the impacted business and are working with them closely to ensure that the service is continued, it's a load of rubbish."

Issues over the past two weeks began when on April 26, sailings on the Largs to Cumbrae route were suspended after the 25-year-old car ferry MV Loch Shira was found to have an oil leak which was later sorted.

Since April 27, engine issues have meant that the four-year-old MV Carvoria which runs between Oban on the mainland and the Isle of Kerrera has been unable to take cars. On Friday evening, CalMac said it had now been repaired.

On April 28, a problem with the ramp on the eight-year-old hybrid car ferry MV Lochinvar meant cancellations on the route between Tarbert, Loch Fyne and Portavadie.

The latest issues come off the back of the country's ferry building fiasco - and comes as the islands prepare to open up next week as Covid restrictions ease.

The two lifeline ferries being build at Ferguson Marine which were due to be in service in early 2018 are now up to nearly five years behind schedule and their cost is now over double the original £97m contract.

Glen Sannox was 'launched' on  November 21, 2017 by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The first of the ferries the MV Glen Sannox is now destined for the Arran to Ardrossan route - Scotland's busiest ferry crossing - between April 2022 and June, 2022.

Ferguson Marine, lef by tycoon Jim McColl went into administration in August, 2019 following a dispute with Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) - the taxpayer-funded company which buys and leases publicly owned CalMac's ships on behalf of the Scottish government - over the construction of the ferries under the fixed price contract.

The Scottish Government then pushed ahead to take full control of of the shipyard company as it went under with blame attached to soaring costs of the ferry contract.

CalMac said: “Due to a forced change in vessels required for freight we are aware that a backlog has been created which we are working to clear as soon as we are able to. The introduction of the Hebridean Isles this evening (Friday) will begin to address that. "Along with additional freight sailings taking place over the weekend we are confident this will be solved by the start of the week.

“Our staff are in contact with all our commercial customers on a daily basis keeping them updated with what the latest situation is.”

The ferry operator said the call for catamarans "is one for both CMAL and Transport Scotland to consider". "CalMac will welcome any vessel that is deemed to be both safe and suitable for the routes we operate," said a CalMac spokesman.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We acknowledge customers’ frustrations during periods of disruption and remain committed to supporting vital lifeline services. We fully recognise the key role ferry services play in supporting the economic, social and cultural development of island and remote mainland communities.

“Vessel deployment is a matter for CalMac, who have been working to find ways to continue the freight and passenger service to the Western Isles. CalMac strives to minimise the time that a vessel may be unavailable and seeks to make the best decisions to balance the needs of communities across the network.

“Transport Scotland is currently working with CMAL, CalMac and many others to develop potential investment programmes for major vessels and small vessels. This work will look to deliver improvements, building on the substantial investment in routes, services, vessels, harbours and fares which have been made in these services in recent years.”