CALMAC have come under fire after issuing a warning to travel only when necessary as one of its oldest vessels remained out of action for an 11th day.

Ferries have been redeployed to help support cancelled services to and from Islay and Colonsay as 36-year-old MV Hebridean Isles remained out of action.

The vessel which suffered hull problems is, subject to successful repairs, expected to depart James Watt Dock in Greenock today (Thursday) to berth overnight in Brodick on the Isle of Arran.

The vessel is due then to Brodick for Islay at 6am on Friday morning and it is hoped it will be able to resume service at 12.45pm.

Until the vessel returns to service the MV Finlaggan will operate a single vessel timetable.

But the state-owned ferry operator has come under fire as it continues to ask for users to restrict travel while warning of further disruption on services between Kennacraig in Argyll and Bute and Port Askaig and Port Ellen on Islay.

HeraldScotland:

The ferry operator warned: "During this period of disruption and the associated reduced capacity it has created, in order to maintain lifeline and essential services there may be a need for some bookings to be cancelled or amended at short notice.

"We also ask that customers only travel if necessary. If you do not already have a vehicle booking please do not attempt to travel.

"We recognise the reduction of any service can be very challenging for our customers and the communities we serve and apologise for the disruption this will cause."

Scottish Conservatives' shadow transport minister, Graham Simpson said: “Islanders relying on these lifeline ferries will be astonished at this messaging from CalMac.

“The firms ageing fleet has let down customers for far too long.

“SNP ministers have not acted fast enough to replace these ferries which are not fit for purpose.

"Millions of public money has been wasted on ferries at Ferguson's shipyard that are years behind schedule and well over budget.

“Our island communities deserve better than CalMac and the SNP-Green government failing to take responsibility for their ferry fiasco.

“It should never have come to a point where islanders might be thinking twice about travelling home.”

CalMac said the public message was intended to "prevent or limit spur of the moment journeys and not essential journeys".   
Twenty-three-year-old MV Clansman was to help with sailings affected on the Oban to Colonsay route as the issues with Hebridean Isles' hull kept it out of service.

After repairs and sea trials last Wednesday after initial attempts at a repair, it was discovered that the issue requires further investigations.

Customers travelling to to Coll and Tiree on Wednesday were told of disruptions to their service because of the redeployment of Clansman, the usual vessel which runs the route.

There was further cancellations to services to and from Colonsay and Islay yesterday.

The issues with Hebridean Isles which first surfaced early last week came jsut nine days after it was laid up over a separate technical issue with its port main engine.

CalMac confirmed last week that it had to redeploy MV Isle of Mull from the Oban to Craignure route, one of Scotland's busiest routes, on Monday of last week to Islay - leading to further cancellations.

Some performers and visitors due to take part in the Ceòl Cholasa music festival on Colonsay last week raised their concerns over being able to reach the traditional folk event which was in its 13th year.

It is the latest in a summer of issues with breakdowns and Covid issues involving Scotland's ageing ferry fleet.

Transport minister Graeme Dey said attempts were being made to ease the ferry crisis by purchasing another ferry.

The breakdown in April of Scotland's biggest publicly-run ferry MV Loch Seaforth, which operates on the Stornoway to Ullapool route, caused disruption across the islands network for seven weeks.

HeraldScotland:

Islanders from Arran to Islay have lodged complaints to ministers about disruption and cancellations to services as the ageing Scottish ferry fleet falters.

While industry experts agree the working life of the ferries is 25 years, 14 of the 33-strong ferry fleet run is older than that, with eight, including Hebridean Isles, past their 30th birthday.

The delivery of new island ferries MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802, still languishing in Ferguson Marine shipyard, which were due online in the first half of 2018, was found to be over four years late with costs doubling to over £200m.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Scottish Ministers fully recognise the key role ferry services play in supporting the economic, social and cultural development of island and remote mainland communities. We continue to work to do everything we can to ensure that new vessels enter service as quickly as possible. We are actively exploring opportunities for securing additional tonnage and looking at other credible, affordable and viable options to improve resilience.

“We are currently working with CMAL [Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, which owns the nation's ageing ferry fleet], CalMac and many others to develop potential investment programmes that will deliver additional improvements, building on the substantial investment in routes, services, vessels, harbours and fares which have been made in these services in recent years.”

CalMac said the message to users was not intended for essential journeys and was meant to help avoid any disappointment if people could not  travel to and from Islay for leisure.

The operator said that essential services, including the transport of goods, have been carried between Islay and the mainland since MV Hebridean Isles has been off. 

Finlay MacRae, head of operations for CalMac, said: “Islanders relying on lifeline services can be absolutely assured that CalMac staff will go out of their way to help them during times of disruption.”