LIFELINE ferry services on two routes could be out of action till Sunday at the earliest - due to safety issues with one of CalMac's oldest vessels.

It comes as the Scottish Government-controlled ferry operator encountered a backlash after raising concern about users failing to show up for sailings throughout the Hebrides area during the disruption period.

The latest issues to island ferry services have emerged as 21-year-old MV Hebrides, was withdrawn due to another issue with its CO2 firefighting system.

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

The 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, yesterday's and today's sailings between Uig on Skye, Lochmaddy on North Uist and Tarbert on Harris are already cancelled.

Now CalMac has confirmed the ferry which is in Greenock for repairs could be ready for Sunday, although that is not guaranteed, and depends on the progress of the work.

"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 continued to state it was exploring contingency plans.

Calmac moved to raise concerns about "a number of 'no shows' during the disruption and appealed to people to let them now if they cannot travel.


"Please let us know if you can’t make your booking as our services are extremely constrained," the ferry operator said.

"If you fail to show up this will prevent another customer from travelling and we want to ensure as many passengers are able to travel as possible.

Our port, vessel and customer contact centre staff are working hard to support customers onto suitable sailings. Please treat them kindly and with respect in these difficult circumstances. Violence and aggression will not be tolerated."

But some criticised the message, saying the ferry operator should concentrate on providing a usable service.

Neil Borthwick said: "Agreed. There's no need for bad behaviour but there needs some serious addressing by CalMac/government of the problems the fleet which has resulted in poor service to customers in general but particularly to the islanders who rely on the fleet for both personal and business reasons."

Derek McGaw added: "Stop blaming the customer for your poor performance!"

And Albert Stirling remarked: "Maybe you should speak to your overlords and ask them to get the finger out with the new vessels and then maybe you could maintain the current fleet better so that you can operate properly.

"A no show is surely only harming themselves as they’ll have paid for a ticket they haven’t used.

"The breakdown has caused concern amongst users whose journeys have been disrupted."

CalMac, in an apology to customers on Tuesday 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.

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.