LIFELINE ferry services on two routes have been cancelled for at least the next two days - due to safety issues with one of CalMac's oldest vessels.

The service's 21-year-old MV Hebrides, has been withdrawn due to another issue with its CO2 firefighting system.

Last night CalMac introduced another temporary plan for those affected - but ruled out moving other vessels from their timetabled routes as happened last week.

The Scottish Government-controlled ferry operator said that the issues were expected to have been resolved last Friday and services were reported to be operating normally on that day.

Issues with the firefighting system first surfaced in mid-June.

All Tuesday's sailings between Uig on Skye, Lochmaddy on North Uist and Tarbert on Harris were cancelled.

Now CalMac has confirmed the cancellations will continue today and tomorrow at least.

"Disrupting 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," said the ferry operator which has said it is exploring contingency plans.

The breakdown has caused concern amongst users who appealed for clear information over what was happening on social media.

Elliott Bowman said: "Yet again another breakdown with the Hebrides. Well I hope you find a relief boat else where this week and not put Islay through the same as last week, with folk sleeping in cars."

South Uist guest house owner Dr Rupert Marshall said: "Why does CalMac not have a contingency plan ready to put into action immediately rather then scrabble around starting from scratch. Shockingly bad management."

Another said: "CalMac is destroying the tourism of the Western Isles. This simply is not good enough."

Another asked what people were supposed to do for accommodation in the event of the cancellations.


The ferry operator responded: "As it is a technical issue you can claim back additional accommodation costs for up to £70 per person per night by completing the Passenger Rights claim form."

CalMac, in an apology to customers and advised people to travel via Lochboisdale-Mallaig or Stornoway-Ullapool.

The temporary plan involves booked passengers being moved onto the timetabled Mallaig to Lochboisdale on South Uist, Barra to Oban and Stornoway on Lewis to Ullapool routes.

CalMac said local hauliers have agreed to move commercial bookings to make space for other vehicles.

Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac, said: “Customers will understandably be upset about this latest disruption to their journeys, and I am deeply sorry for what they are going through. Moving them onto other routes is far from ideal but without a spare vessel, this is the best option we have available.

“We need to find out what is causing this malfunction and get it fixed properly by a specialist team. We are currently exploring all options to find specialist resources and equipment to repair the fire safety system.

“I would like to thank customers, including hauliers and businesses who have agreed to move bookings, for their patience and support at this very difficult time.

“While we know this process is time consuming and frustrating for customers, our staff are doing their very best to help and should not be subjected to aggression or violent behaviour".

Users have been told a full investigation is to be carried out to find out why the failure has happened so soon after the last week's events.

An additional sailing to and from Armadale on Skye and Lochboisdale on South Uist was being organised for today.

CalMac warned freight will be prioritised and any remaining space will be allocated on a first come, first served basis on the departure from Lochboisdale.

Hebrides only returned to service on Friday after repairs in Ullapool to the firefighting system.

The safety issue surfaced a week ago led to the third oldest vessel in the fleet, 37-year-old MV Hebridean Isles temporarily moved from Islay on Wednesday to help support the lifeline services.

This had a knock on effect with cancellations experienced on other services including links to Islay which went down to a one-ship service due to a lack of replacement vessels.

The vessel was first removed from service in mid-June due to a problem with its fire-fighting system. Then, a temporary repair which satisfied the ‘appropriate authorities’ gained the ship a short term dispensation to sail.

CalMac said MV Hebrides was again headed for a mainland yard for repairs and it would confirm an estimated timeframe for the work later.

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.