TWO of CalMac's ageing ferry fleet are out of action due to engine faults - causing a new wave of disruption to lifeline island ferry services.

All sailings to and from South Uist from Mallaig on the mainland have been shut down after issues with the port main enginer of MV Lord of the Isles, one of the biggest and oldest vessels in the fleet, which required further investigation.

It is not yet known how the breakdown of the 33-year-old ferry will impact on Friday's sailings.

CalMac have advised foot passengers that an alternative involves taking a huge detour with the help of buses.

The island has already suffered three months of disruption since the start of the year due to ferry issues.

CalMac told users: "We apologise for the inconvenience this causes.

"Disrupting a sailing is a decision we do not take lightly because we know it will inconvenience our customers and the communities we serve."

And another of Scottish Government-controlled CalMac's oldest vessels remained out of action on Thursday as repairs to its engine were unsuccessful.

Services between Oban and Kennacraig on the mainland, and the islands of Colonsay and Islay were cancelled for the rest of the day on Wednesday morning after 37-year-old MV Hebridean Isles developed engine problems.


The third oldest ferry in the CalMac fleet was removed from service while repairs were being carried out.

MV Finlaggan was expected to continue to support some island services on a different route that does not serve Colonsay.

But it has emerged that there remained further cancellations on the route as Hebridean Isles has not resurfaced.

CalMac advised foot passengers hit by the South Uist issues that they can travel 60 miles to Ui on Skye to get the ferry to Lochmaddy on North Uist, which is 41 miles from Lochboisdale as an alternative. The ferry operator said bus connections were available from Fort William.

In the wake of the Colonsay and Islay disruptions, Scottish Conservative Graham Simpson, the shadow transport minister said: " The SNP's unwillingness to intervene means more than a third of CalMac's ferries are working beyond their expected lifespan.

"This decline is taking its toll on island communities, who have faced years of disorder and disruption.

"These problems are commonplace because of years of underinvestment by the SNP.

"They have no proper ferry replacement plan - even their own experts say that.

"There is no excuse for the complete lack of action in sorting out this mess and all the while it is islanders who are suffering."

Earlier this year Stòras Uibhist a community owned company that manages the 93,000 acre South Uist Estate comprising the Outer Hebridean islands of Eriskay, South Uist and parts of Benbecula raised concerns that an “essential services” ferry timetable meant that the Lochboisdale route was the only one across the entire CalMac fleet to be suspended.

That meant adding six hours to the travelling time of a return trip to Glasgow as ferry users have to divert to get the ferry from North Uist and travel to Skye.

It formed a working group on behalf of the community "for both a short-term solution to the current problems and also for long-term improvements".

In May, Lord of the Isles was was withdrawn for around a week for repairs to its drencher system, in the hope this will “allow the vessel to remain in service throughout the summer”.

Western Isles local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar reacted with anger then at Uist being left without a service and demanded that action was taken to bring in an alternative ferry.

The state-owned ferry operator CalMac is having to handle an ageing ferry fleet with new vessels Glen Sannox and Hull 802 still languishing in Port Glasgow as the costs of their construction have soared from the original £97m contract to at least £250m and delivery is over five years late.

Seventeen of CalMac's 35 working ferries deployed across Scotland are now over 25 years old.

The oldest in the CalMac fleet is is the Isle of Cumbrae which is 46-years old.

And the cost of repairs to ferries run by CalMac has more than tripled in a decade as age has taken its toll.

The state-controlled ferry operator spent more than £28.5m on repairs to their vessels last year, compared with just £9.5m in 2011.

A CalMac spokesman said: “Services between Mallaig and Lochboisdale have been cancelled today after an issue with the port main engine of MV Lord of the Isles. Engineers are working on the engine today and an update will be provided regarding tomorrow’s sailings as soon as possible.

“Services to and from Islay are running today with an amended timetable while engineers on board MV Hebridean Isles repair an engine fault. Colonsay services are operating to and from Oban.

“We apologise for this disruption and for the inconvenience caused to customers.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “Ministers have been in direct contact today on the MV Hebridean Isles outage - CalMac have confirmed the part required to reinstate the vessel has been ordered and are hopeful the vessel will be back out in service imminently. In the meantime, it’s important to say that Islay remains to be served by the MV Finlaggan for those requiring to travel.” 

“CalMac staff have worked hard to ensure all affected traffic has been moved to alternative sailings and will continue to do so until the vessel returns to service. As always, they will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the delivery of essential supplies and export of products.”