FIVE of Scotland's lifeline ferry fleet have were unable to sail at one point on Tuesday due to an ongoing run of technical problems, it has emerged.

MV Alfred, MV Hebridean Isles, MV Loch Linnhe, MV Portain and MV Catriona have all had either long term or short-term issues which the Scottish Government-owned ferry operator CalMac is having to deal with.

Engine problems meant 36-year-old MV Loch Linnhe was sidelined as she returned to service after suffering technical problems on Monday evening.

A passenger charter vessel was brought in on Saturday to support the loss and operate on the route to and from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.

After repairs, the vessel, which can carry 200 passengers and 12 cars, was due to return at 4pm on Monday.

But the problem re-occurred during her return and she was sidelined on Tuesday while contractors were brought in to carry out repairs.

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There was further disruption to services between Berneray on North Uist and Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris due to a continuing technical problem with 20-year-old MV Loch Portain which means she can only operate on three engines instead of four. CalMac is seeking spare parts to fix the problem which means it cannot operate during strong winds.

The Herald:

The issues first surfaced last Thursday and led to some cancellations.

A passenger charter vessel Karleen Belle has been brought in to support the service while it was confirmed that the ferry, which can carry 146 passengers and 34 cars could not operate both on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

A technical issue with the eight-year-old pioneering diesel electric hybrid MV Catriona meant two sailings to and from Arran through Lochranza were cancelled on Tuesday morning. Later users were told that the issue continued to be monitored and that sailings were liable to disruption or cancellation.

Gearbox issues discovered on September 24 on the 'emergency' vessel that is costing taxpayers £1m a month to charter have meant it is not due back till October 10 at the earliest.

CalMac is having to rearrange berthing trials on the route to and from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to find out if it can operate there.

The vessel had been providing services with MV Caledonian Isles to Brodick while 38-year-old MV Hebridean Isles, which has served on the route, has been sidelined for months.

A ferry user group official said that CalMac services were "creaking at the seams" and that action was urgently needed to provide more short term support for the fleet.

The Herald: MV Alfred

"To have so many vessels in different stages of inaction is of deep concern and especially as one of the vessels is one that was brought in to help prevent any disruption in the network," he said.

It comes as the repair bill for CalMac’s fleet passed £100m in the last five years.

Official figures revealed the cost of repairs came in at £106,562,000 in total and stood at £26.5m for 2022/23 alone.

The ferries have faced rising maintenance bills as the fleet grows older.