ONE of Scotland's oldest publicly owned ferry vessels has had to be taken in for repairs due to a fault - as another was due to make a return.

The 21-year-old MV Lochnevis which can carry 190 passengers and 14 cars, had to stop all services on the morning of the Spring Bank Holiday because of the technical issue. It later operated a passenger-only service.

It comes as a new row erupted over disruption to freight deliveries at the weekend due to ferry cancellations on Lewis.

Now it has emerged that Scottish Government-funded CalMac has had to bring in a passenger charter MV Larven to operate on Tuesday so that Lochnevis can get repaired.

It comes as MV Loch Seaforth was due to return last night (Monday) for the 10.30pm freight sailing from Stornoway after being offline for repairs for nearly seven weeks. She successfully completed her sea trials over the weekend.

CalMac said Lochnevis - which serves the Small Isles - Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna "has an issue with her thruster so a passenger charter has been arranged".

Passengers have been warned that Tuesday sailings may be disrupted or cancelled at short notice.

Technical issues with the vessel have resulted in disruption for the past two weeks.

On May 16, calls to Rum and Canna were cancelled.

Launched in 2000, the Lochnevis, cost around £5.5m and was purpose built as part of a £30m European assisted programme to modernise ferry services to the Small Isles.

READ MORE: 'We again apologise': CalMac's biggest vessel finally returns after seven weeks of ferry chaos

Some 25% of its construction costs qualified for support from the European Regional Development Fund.


CalMac has also warned that due to an "ongoing navigational issue" at the entrance to Muck pier, all sailings to Muck remain liable to disruption and possible cancellation at short notice until the issue is resolved.

And the service to Eigg also continues to be liable to disruption due to an ongoing issue with the pier infrastructure.

The latest issues come off the back of the country's ferry building fiasco at the now state-owned Ferguson Marine.

The two lifeline ferries being built 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.

The return of CalMac's largest vessel has come after complaints of a cancellation of a freight sailing at the weekend - leaving behind at least seven articulated lorries - three with loads of salmon.

Due to a delay on Friday evening, sailings from Stornoway and Ullapool on Saturday morning were cancelled.

One observer complained to a local MSP that there was an ability to fit approximately ten unbooked/standby cars which would easily have accommodated at least two of the lorries.

He said: "Don’t be in any hurry to go for the weekly shop today! Calmac would rather ship campervans and unbooked traffic instead of local produce and supermarket loads."

CalMac said the lorries got onto the next sailing and insist there was not enough room for even one artic "which is why a handful of cars was able to get on.

Robert Morrison, operations director said: “Customers were kept updated of the situation and were advised in advance that the 3am sailing would not be running.

“We know that recent technical issues have been having a huge impact on hauliers and we are grateful for their understanding as we work to keep essential services operating.”

Earlier this month, the Herald revealed that a temporary replacement freight ferry for the Ullapool-Stornoway route - considered too small because it only had space for four lorries - had itself had to be replaced leading to three days of freight sailing cancellations.

Loch Seaforth was taken off the Ullapool-Stornoway route by CalMac in mid-April to be taken into dry dock for "major" engine repairs.

The publicly funded firm had initially said the eight-year-old vessel would out of action until "at least the end of April" at the earliest but has since kept putting that date back.

After a series of schedule changes and as the islands start to open up to visitors with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the return of the vessel was pushed back to May 31 at the earliest.

Following the initial repair to the Loch Seaforth engine, damage to the crankshaft was identified during post-repair testing that required further action.

CalMac said crankshaft bearings have now been disassembled and inspected and the damaged bearing has been replaced.

The Herald revealed how the failure of Loch Seaforth resulted in cuts to other services across the ferry network as vessels relied on with other routes were shifted around to accommodate.

Campaigners had described the situation as a "national scandal" and that those responsible should already have lost their jobs for the state of Scotland's ferries.

One of Scotland's busiest ferry services, the Ardrossan to Arran route, was to be serviced by one vessel, rather than two.

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

The 38-year-old MV Isle of Arran - which normally runs on the Ardrossan to Arran route - and was taken off freight service duties on the Ullapool-Stornoway crossing because of stabiliser problems, resulting in a shutdown on services for over three days, has been operating on the "more sheltered" Islay run.

There was criticism when it emerged that the Ullapool to Stornoway replacmenet, the Isle of Arran only had space for four lorries.

The 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles, ended up replacing the Isle of Arran on the Stornoway crossing initially causing cancellations on its usual Kennacraig to Islay.

With the Loch Seaforth returning to action, the Isle of Arran is due to return to the Brodick-Ardrossan route allowing a return to the two vessel service on June 3.