CalMac's largest ferry out of action until May

Image source, CMAL
Image caption,
The MV Loch Seaforth serves CalMac's Ullapool to Stornoway route

CalMac's largest and fastest ferry could be out of action until the middle of May following an engine failure.

Specialist engineers have told the ferry company the MV Loch Seaforth could return to its Ullapool-Stornoway route by 17 May at the earliest.

CalMac said the date of the ship's return to service could be subject to change.

It had been hoped the ferry could be back before the end of April after suffering an engine problem last week.

The ferry, which operates between Ullapool in the Highlands and Stornoway on Lewis in the Western Isles, has been taken to a dock in Greenock for repairs.

Other ferries have been taken off their routes to cover the passenger and freight services provided by the Loch Seaforth.

But Western Isles Council - Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - has been critical of the arrangements and said the replacement ferries do not have the capacity to meet demand from customers, including shellfish businesses, that need to get their products to the mainland.

CalMac said it was working "extremely hard" to maintain services for the Western Isles.

Managing director Robbie Drummond said: "Clearly, the loss of the MV Loch Seaforth and how this has affected other services has caused a lot of disruption to customers, and we are so sorry about this.

"We are working closely with local businesses to make sure that all demand for travel is being met, and I am most grateful to them for their support, patience and understanding as we deal with this situation.

"We are confident that the MV Loch Seaforth will be back in service in a matter of weeks and the normal summer timetable will be back up and running as planned."

The 116m-long (380ft) Loch Seaforth can carry up to 143 cars and 700 passengers.

Built in Germany at a cost of £42m, the ferry has been in service since 2015 and is the largest and fastest in CalMac's fleet.