LIFELINE services to Skye have been cancelled as one of CalMac's oldest vessels, which was to be phased out, has suffered engine problems since Thursday.

Services on the Mallaig to Armadale on Skye have had to be cancelled as the 31-year-old MV Loch Fyne suffered issues with the overheating of a forward engine.

After a repair was carried out, the vessel was to return briefly yesterday, only for Calmac to find that issue had "recurred" and further services had to be cancelled.

CalMac said: "We recognise that cancelling a service can be very challenging for our customers and the communities we serve and apologise for the disruption this will cause."

A further review was expected to find out whether the 2.15pm and 4.15pm services from Armadale and the 3.15pm from Mallaig would still set sail.

CalMac said that they hoped that the vessel, which can carry 200 passengers and 36 cars, would be back in action on Friday afternoon, after an engineer clears out debris from the engine cooler.

It is the latest in a series of issues with the ageing CalMac vessels.

A batch of seven ferries are due to replace some of Calmac's oldest vessels, including MV Loch Fyne and are due to be introduced over the next ten years.

All of the vessels being replaced are among the 17 of CalMac's 31 working ferries deployed in Scotland that are now over 25 years old.

After 1973, when the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. acquired most of the ferries and routes and began joint Clyde and West Highland operations under the new name of Caledonian MacBrayne, the official expected life of a ferry had been 20 years.

That is until 2002, three years after the 1999 devolution when the then Scottish Government-owned Caledonian MacBrayne which then owned the fleet and procured vessels, extended the 'working life' from 20 years to 25 years.

In May, last year Highland councillors in a series of recommendations to provide greater resilience in the short term for island communities after a series of technical failures, said that in the short term MV Loch Fyne should be taken off the Mallaig to Armadale route and replaced by the more youthful MV Coruisk, which is 19 years old.

Last month, calls were made for a Scottish Government summit over a ferries crisis which had been linked to food rationing in shops on Scottish islands and people sleeping in their cars.

HeraldScotland: MV HEBRIDES

The MV Hebrides was sidelined after it required repairs to its firefighting system meaning two key Outer Hebrides routes were out of action for three days, while several other key Western Isles routes suffered major disruption last week, with the MV Isle of Mull being redeployed from Mull to cover the shortfall.

Twenty-two-year-old MV Hebrides had been taken out of service for a third time in a matter of weeks causing a shutdown of the routes between Uig on Skye, Lochmaddy on North Uist and Tarbert on Harris.

Islanders complained of food shortages, restaurants struggling to get supplies, visitors sleeping in cars and village halls and visitors re-routed on lengthy detours.

Islanders were concerned it led to rationing of basic items such as bread and milk.

CalMac denied that the disruption was the cause of the supplies shortages.

It comes against a backdrop of two vital ferries needed to help begin to replace an ageing fleet running at least five years late with costs escalating to at least two-and-a-half times the original budget.

The issues at nationalised Inverclyde shipyard Ferguson Marine mean that Glen Sannox 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.