LIFELINE ferry services have been severely disrupted after a fault which has sidelined one of its ageing vessels a matter of days after it was evacuated after a bombscare.

An issue with MV Hebrides' firefighting system has meant all sailings between Uig on the Isle of Skye & Lochmaddy on North Uist were cancelled today.

There were further cancellations on the service between Uig and Tarbert on the Isle of Harris with the Scottish Government-controlled ferry operator CalMac apologising to customers for the disruption.

Last week the vessel, was evacuated and grounded in the wake of a bomb scare.

Police confirmed that a suspicious package had been reported on the vessel just before 5pm on July 21.

It is understood surrounding boats in the harbour at Uig were also evacuated.

Later that evening Police Scotland issued a statement saying that the alert had been called off after enquiries concluded that the package was not suspicious.

A spokesperson said the alarm had been raised with good intent.

Now CalMac has been forced to cancel a raft of services as investigations are carried out into the issues with the firefighting system of the 22-year-old vessel which was due to be replaced.

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CalMac said: "Cancelling a sailing is a decision we do not take lightly because we know it will inconvenience our customers and the communities we serve. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

There was expected to be a review over what services can be fulfilled once the vessel’s crew has been able to seek advice from a specialist contractor and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which oversees vessel safety.

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.

It means that Glen Sannox will now be five years late and will not see service till between March and May 2023 at the earliest, while Hull 802 is not due to set sail till between October and December 2023.

Finlay MacRae, head of operations at CalMac, said: “MV Hebrides has a technical issue with her CO2 firefighting system and we are sorry to announce that sailings up until this evening have had to be cancelled as a result of this.

“Contractors are due to arrive at Uig this afternoon to carry out the necessary repairs, and we`ll update as soon as we have the specialist view.

"All affected passengers are being contacted and advised to travel via Lochboisdale or Ullapool, although space is limited as we are at a peak demand period of the summer. This situation is difficult and inconvenient for our customers and we apologise to everyone affected and will do our best to find alternative options where these exist."

Two months ago the Hebrides was out of action for over four days after it was damaged when it hit a pier in North Uist.

MV Hebrides had to be taken to Greenock for repairs to its hull after the incident while berthing at Lochmaddy.

The damage to MV Hebrides left some islanders temporarily without a dedicated ferry service to the mainland because another ship, MV Lord of the Isles, was also out of service for repairs to firefighting equipment.

In order to restore the service, CalMac, had to move other ferries from their usual routes to Islay and to Arran, causing wider disruption.

Western Isles local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar reacted with anger at Uist being left without a service.

Hebrides, built by Ferguson Shipbuilders and launched by the Queen in August 2000, is normally considered one of the most reliable and punctual of CalMac's ferries.