TWO more ferries have broken down causing more chaos on Scotland’s beleaguered ferry network.

Problems with an engine fuel pump has seen one of the oldest in the state-owned CalMac fleet the 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles forced out of action leading to cancellations to services which is expected to extend into today.

It has gone to Kennacraig on the Kintyre peninsula, Argyll and Bute to allow repair works to be carried out.  It is not yet know how long it will be out of action.

Sailings to and from Colonsay and Islay were cancelled from yesterday morning.

And issues with MV Chieftain’s starter motor discovered early yesterday morning meant the suspension of services between Gourock and Kilcreggan - used by staff travelling to the Royal Navy’s Coulport and Faslane bases.

CalMac said Chieftain was expected to make a return today (Thursday) but have warned that the service will be liable to disruption or cancellation at short notice.

Procurement of a replacement for MV Hebridean Isles is currently underway with a contract award expected next year.

In 2019, distillers on Islay said they were facing major problems in transporting whisky over to the Scottish mainland because of a capacity crisis on the ferry links.

CalMac, the taxpayer-owned ferry operator, has traditionally served Islay with two vessels including MV Finlaggan.

It comes as it emerged there were no online car booking slots available until mid-August on one route after an specially commissioned emergency ferry broke down just a week after being chartered by ministers to resolve the fleet crisis.

Passenger services from the mainland to Stornoway on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides were cancelled after the MV Arrow got fishing equipment tangled in its propeller and was sent to Belfast for repair.

The Herald:

MV Arrow.

CalMac has had to bring in MV Loch Seaforth to deal with the new wave of freight issues which has resulted from Arrow’s loss - and as a result  two additional sailings per week  have been cancelled  from Monday and until further notice.

MV Arrow was to operate as a freight service by Seatruck on behalf of CalMac, providing additional capacity and resilience and was focussed on getting freight to and from Stornoway, the main town of the Western Isles.

Ferry capacity remains capped at 35%, though it is hoped it will be back at 100% once Covid restrictions ease on August 9.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has said three-quarters of his dealings with constituents are now about the ferry problems.

He said chartering of vessels and additional sailings must be considered to ease travellers’ concerns ahead of new ships joining the fleet.

“People who live on the islands are finding it very difficult to get on a ferry other than on a standby basis, which brings with it no guarantees,” he said.

And Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Jason Leitch, the national clinical director to urgently look at increasing the percentage of passengers who can travel on CalMac ferries.

While there was an expectation that all physical distancing requirements will be remove Mr MacNeil is calling on the Scottish Government to increase capacity prior to this date to help ease the pressure on island ferries.

The Herald:

MV Chieftain.  Source: YouTube (Scott Braid)

Also demanding improvement is a leading businessman on the Isle of Cumbrae Scott Ferris who says passenger restrictions and failing ferries are costing the local economy millions of pounds.

Mr Ferris, who owns Mapes of Millport cycle and toy shop, said: “By my count in May the island lost out on approximately 45,000 visitors in comparison to previous Mays, which is a huge blow to local businesses.

“Using VisitScotland data on typical tourism spends, this means the island community has lost a whopping £2,760,000.”

There is concern over the state of Scotland's vessel procurement as 16 of the state-owned ferry operator's 31 working ferries deployed across Scotland is now over 25 years old.

Two lifeline vessels being built at nationalised Ferguson Marine, owner of the last civilian Clyde shipyard are now up to nearly five years behind schedule are now costing double the original £97m contract.

A CalMac spokesman said: "The MV Finlaggan will be operating an amended timetable tomorrow to allow for repairs to the cooling pump on the MV Hebridean Isles starboard main engine. The MV Hebridean Isles has an issue with the starter motor, which will be repaired quickly as soon as the relevant part arrives. We apologise for any disruption that these issues are causing to our passengers."

Tommy Gore, areea operations manager (Clyde) for CalMac, said of the Cumbrae complaint: “This past year has been highly unusual thanks to the effects of Covid-19 and the restrictions put in place to help keep people safe. We legally have to comply with the rules regarding physical distancing and the regular cleaning regime is another way in which we can help to stop the infection from spreading.

“We recognise that there is a high demand from visitors travelling to and from Cumbrae, and while restrictions remain for the time being, we must manage this demand as best we can.

“Occasionally, day tickets have been suspended on particularly busy days so that vessels returning from Cumbrae will have enough space to bring visitors back to Largs.”

The Herald on Sunday revealed that residents have lodged concern over the "lottery" of getting on and off Scotland's islands as it emerged some routes had little or no space for cars for over three weeks.