A FERRY brought in to help support Scotland's beleaguered and ageing lifeline CalMac network has been put out of action for a second time after it was chartered, it has emerged.

The 40-passenger catamaran MV Larven, normally operated by Western Isles Cruises was brought in at the start of the month by the state-controlled ferry operator as further disruption hit services to and from the so-called Small Isles including Eigg, Muck, Rum and Canna.

The Herald revealed it was put out of action the day after it was chartered due to a "technical issue" and was out of action for four days.

It came in after the usual Small Isles vessel 21-year-old MV Lochnevis hit problems leading to further cancellations.

READ MORE: CalMac faces backlash for 'only travel if necessary' warning to users after ferry breakdown

It was originally brought to accomodate foot passengers to work alongside the 25-year-old CalMac vessel MV Loch Bhrusda as MV Lochnevis was taken out of service for an annual overhaul.

But at 7pm on Wednesday it was confirmed that MV Larven had been put out of action again due to another "technical issue" and Loch Bhrusda has had to cope on its own.

Neither CalMac or Western Isles Cruises responded to queries about what the issue was.

The development comes as CalMac have admitted that Lochnevis that usually runs the route was delayed from coming out of its annual overhaul.

It was due back on Wednesday and yesterday it was not clear when it would return.

CalMac were telling ferry users that the delay in Lochnevis's return meant that timetables were subject to change on Saturday morning, while relief vessel Loch Bhrusda was expected to continue operating yesterday and today (Friday).

It emerged that another ferry, the 21-year-old MV Hebrides, was also sidelined yesterday after a positive Covid case causing disruption on the the Uig on Skye to Lochmaddy on North Uist and Tarbert routes.

After the completion of cleaning and the joining of replacement crew, Hebrides is expected to resume service noon today (Friday).

Meanwhile the 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles, one of the fleet's oldest vessels, which was sidelined with a hull problem for a 12th day yesterday was expected to be back in action this afternoon (Friday).

It is the latest in a summer of issues with breakdowns and Covid issues involving Scotland's ageing ferry fleet.

It comes just eight weeks after another ferry chartered with the sanction of ministers to support Scotland's the network broke down in less than a week.

HeraldScotland:

The MV Arrow (above) 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 were scrapped till the end of the month.

READ MORE: Ferry chaos as passenger vessel sidelined a day after CalMac 'emergency' charter

In June MV Larven was brought in after further problems with Lochnevis - which had lasted three weeks.

While trying to deal with a backlog of vehicles and freight in the service to Eigg, Muck, Rum and Cann, after repair work was carried out to the thruster of Lochnevis, it broke down again, with a generator circuit breaker issue.

MV Hebrides, which can carry 612 passengers and 90 cars was due to be replaced by a new ship, one of two dual-fuel vessels at the centre of a ferry-building fiasco that are languishing in Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow on the Clyde, with delivery over four years later and with costs having doubled.

After a delay of over four years the new ferry, known as Hull 802, is expected in early 2023.

Islanders from Arran to Islay have lodged complaints to ministers about disruption and cancellations to services as the ageing Scottish ferry fleet falters.

While industry experts agree the working life of the ferries is 25 years, 14 of the 33-strong ferry fleet run is older than that, with eight past their 30th birthday.