A ferry chartered by the Scottish Government to support Scotland's beleaguered ferry network has broken down in less than a week.

The MV Arrow was brought in to help relieve pressure on freight services between CalMac's Stornoway to Ullapool crossing having been chartered a week ago.

It was to provide additional overnight sailings on the route for six weeks.

CalMac had hoped the charter would free up space on its MV Loch Seaforth ferry, particular during the busiest weeks of the summer tourist season.

But it hit problems after marine waste got tangled with a propellor on Saturday and all sailings have now been scrapped till the end of the month.

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The breakdown follows problems on islands routes earlier this year.

The Loch Seaforth, which runs the Stornoway to Ullapool route had to undergo major repairs after suffering an engine failure in April.

The breakdown caused wider disruption to CalMac's west coast network as other ferries had to cover.

There have been further issues for sailings between Mallaig and Lochboisdale on South Uist  after  the 32-year-old MV Lord of the Isles, one of the biggest and oldest vessels in the CalMac fleet broke down.

CalMac's managing director Robbie Drummond said: "The MV Loch Seaforth will resume night freight sailings and commercial customers are being made aware of this change.


"Our customer service team will try to accommodate any customers who were booked on to the two additional weekly passenger sailings in the meantime."

Angus Campbell, chairman of CalMac's independent community board, said the ferry operator's decision to charter the Arrow had been welcomed.

But he described the breakdown as a "huge disappointment", adding that it "only adds to the total frustration with the service".

MV Arrow was supposed to bolster the vital ferry link between Ullapool and the Isle of Lewis with an additional freight service.

The ro-ro ferry joined the ferry fleet on a short-term charter from July 19, until September 7.

The vessel was to operate as a freight service by Seatruck on behalf of CalMac, providing additional capacity and resilience.

It was expected to  allow MV Loch Seaforth to provide extra sailings to support Covid recovery while physical distancing rules remain in place.

These have reduced passenger capacity to around 30 per cent of the usual CalMac ferry capacity.

The MV Arrow took over MV Loch Seaforth’s evening freight sailing six days a week, allowing the Seaforth to deliver two additional passenger sailings per week.

The charter included a break clause, meaning MV Arrow can be called back with 24 hours’ notice.

Robert Morrison, operations director for CalMac, said when  Arrow as chartered: “We have been working closely with Transport Scotland to investigate the feasibility of leasing extra vessels, and the addition of the MV Arrow is extremely welcome.

“The chartering of the MV Arrow will help provide much-needed resilience at a time when Covid restrictions remain in place and there is high demand for spaces on board our ferries.”