ONE of Scotland's busiest ferry services is expected to be hit during the Jubilee bank holiday weekend after a new fault with a lifeline vessel.

CalMac confirmed that it will have to curtail the use of MV Caledonian Isles, one of the biggest and oldest vessels in Scotland's lifeline ferry network, till Friday at the earliest.

It comes after a series of issues over just over a month which began when a Easter holiday weekend services to and from Arran were disrupted with a series of cancellations after a crash following an engine failure involving the 29-year-old vessel.

The state-controlled ferry operator says the vessel developed a fault with a fast rescue craft which is required by large vessels for man overboard situations.

The MV Isle of Arran is still operating on the two-vessel crossing but sailings have been been cut.

CalMac said there were still plenty of spaces unbooked and available, and anyone who already has a booking is guaranteed a place.

Ferry users have been told that the problem is with the crane-like devices called davits, that is preventing a fast rescue craft launch.

CalMac's marine department is understood to have had to produce "a safety case" and risk assessment for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to approve sailing without the use of it in the short term.

The Herald:

Users have been told the MV Caledonian Isles is restricted to carrying 410 passengers - less than half its normal capacity.  Official figures show that it can carry 1000 passengers, and 92 cars.

CalMac told the Herald that it was cut from 704 passengers to 569.  The ferry operator said the Caledonian Isles capacity had already been reduced from 1000 late last year due to outside seating issues.

Users have also been told that CalMac was aware this weekend will be "exceptionally busy" and that everything would be done to return the vessel to full passenger capacity before Friday.

The extended Jubilee four-day bank holiday weekend begins on Thursday and runs to Sunday.

Caledonian Isles has been operating on reduced capacity since Tuesday and it is expected to continue that way till at least Friday "while further investigations and repairs are being made".

The ferry operator advised that all passengers including foot passengers must have a valid booking prior to travelling, all existing bookings will be accommodated.

One user said: "Oh dear, another week, another problem.  Can they bring in alternative craft as a temporary measure that can be launched in the event a rescue is required?"

Another user feared that that the "constant negative narrative" of the ferries was affecting bookings to Arran as their led to believe "it is always failing".

"Sowing the seeds of doubt will create a harvest of cancellations," he said.

CalMac launched an investigation in mid-April after the Caledonian Isles crash which put the vessel out of action for nearly a fortnight.

A smaller ferry, MV Isle of Arran, operated the Caledonian Isles’ timetable while the vessel was out of action.

A recent economic study commissioned by North Ayrshire Council found that disrupted ferries cost the Isle of Arran up to £170,000 a day in lost revenue to businesses.

Last September a problem with the sewage system meant it was withdrawn from service to undergo repair leading to more ferry cancellations on the busy Ardrossan to Brodick route.

It was also out of action for several days in August as a result of a member of staff testing positive for Covid.

The delivery of new lifeline island ferries MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802, which were due online in the first half of 2018, are at least going to be over five years years late, with costs at least rising by two-and-a-half times to £250m. Glen Sannox was due to support the Arran route.

A spokeswoman for CalMac said: “Arran is very much open for business this holiday weekend and two ferries continue to run on the Ardrossan-Brodick route, with another to and from the west coast of the island. There are plenty of spaces available on board for people planning to visit Arran or the mainland over the coming days despite the reduction in capacity.

“We are encouraging passengers to book ahead if possible either through our website, by phone or at one of our port offices. Bookings already confirmed will be guaranteed.”