Three more of CalMac's ageing fleet have required repairs over Easter bringing a new wave of disruption on the west coast of Scotland.

The 31-year-old MV Loch Tarbert, 32-year-old MV Loch Fyne and nine-year-old MV Loch Seaforth were added to the roster of vessels needing repairs over Easter Sunday and Monday causing further headaches for the Scottish Government-owned ferry operator.

Three of CalMac's fleet MV Caledonian Isles, MV Hebridean Isles and MV Clansman have remained out of action since the summer timetable began on April 1 having spent weeks on the sidelines for repairs after problems discovered after overhauls.

The latest to be taken out of service was MV Loch Seaforth after it suffered an engine control issue on Monday evening hitting sailings to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis that is expected to run into Tuesday morning.  Among the services cancelled was the vital early morning freight service.

MV Loch Fyne was taken out of service on Monday as it waited for welders to attend to repair a fracture a tank which acts as the primary structural support towards the aft of the vessel. This has caused disruption on the Mallaig to Armadale on Skye service as MV Loch Bhrusda, a smaller vessel was drafted in to accommodate some booked customers.

Meanwhile there was disruption on the services to Tobermory on Mull when MV Loch Tarbert suffered a crack in the sea strainer on Sunday. The fault combined with weather conditions saw services suspended on Sunday. There remains a yellow alert on the service while investigations are carried out regarding a more permanent repair.

The ferry operators have been forced to suspend mainland services linking Portavadie and Tarbert till the end of Tuesday as the dedicated ferry was re-deployed to support the Largs to Cumbrae service.

It has come in the midst of a series of issues which have hit the ageing fleet while the ferry operator awaits the arrival of extra ferry capacity in the form of new vessels.

MV Hebridean Isles, the 38-year-old vessel which operates on one of the west coast's most popular routes to and from Arran has been in Birkenhead for repairs have been hit with issues since Boxing Day.

The Herald:

Sea trials were conducted in March but a further fault was identified and the vessel had to re-enter dry dock for further repairs.

It has emerged that MV Caledonian Isles, the 30-year-old ferry which runs on the busy Arran route, which was to be sidelined till at least March 1 then April 13 following concerns with its main engines, is not now scheduled to return till April 15.

It was due out of its maintenance overhaul in February having gone into dry dock at the start of January.

It will then operate a single-vessel timetable until May 27. A dual ferry won't be back in operation till May 28.

MV Clansman remains out of action after problems first hit in January. It suffered a starboard main engine failure after sea trials over a technical issue.

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The 25-year-old vessel had originally been delayed from entering service after the ferry operator identified new steelwork corrosion during its overhaul.

The Herald: Tha am MV Clansman ga càradh an-dràsta

The vessel is still undergoing repairs with an estimated return of April 22.

One ferry user group official said that it was time to get new replacement ferries into services to support the CalMac fleet.

"The worry is that the perception is that we cannot rely on the ferries," he said. "It is a perception that we have got to dispel. We cannot do that by pretending the issues are not there, which many are wanting to do. We can only do this by having adequate support for the fleet because we cannot go on like this."

Last month, ministers spent £9m to charter an 'emergency' vessel for nine months in the wake of continuing disruption to lifeline ferry services.

MV Alfred is due to join the fleet from April 18 when she will undertake berthing trials before being made available for service.

The Herald: MV Alfred, the second catamaran ferry bought by Pentland Ferries, and delivered in 2019. Image credit: Pentland Ferries..

The vessel which is at the centre of a crash investigation dating back to the summer of last year, will be chartered from Pentland Ferries who will operate services on behalf of CalMac.

The latest issues come after South Uist islanders had their ferry services restored for Easter in a u-turn, but still face weeks without sea links due to a vessel shortage.

CalMac previously announced that no ferries would be running between the mainland and South Uist for more than five weeks due to ongoing delays in dry dock and technical issues.

It had said services between Mallaig/Oban and Lochboisdale on South Uist would be cancelled between April 5 and May 13.

But CalMac has since stated it will be able to run the service between April 5 and 16.

The ferry operator said this is due to its decision to delay commencement of the overhaul of MV Finlaggan.

These services will be operated from Oban by MV Isle of Mull and a reduced timetable will be operating on April 16.

But the ferry operator has been unable to confirm that services from April 17 to May 12 will be possible as the MV Isle of Mull is needed to replace the MV Loch Frisa on the route to Craignure on Mull as the ship completes its annual overhaul.