Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has called on the Scottish Government and CalMac to conduct a “lessons learnt” exercise around this year’s Stornoway and Barra dry dock replacement, to ensure more successful planning and deployment in future.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, Cllr Uisdean Robertson, said: “The annual dry dock programme for major CalMac Ferries is again having a profoundly negative impact on communities across the Western Isles.
“Perhaps if there was more island input into the planning and decision making, there would be a better understanding of how the lack of proper planning and deployment adversely affects life in these islands.
“CalMac has deployed MV Isle of Lewis and MV Hebridean Isles to the Stornoway route with the latter designated for freight services. Despite this being the route with the highest freight volume on the network, MV Hebridean Isles’ freight carrying capacity is heavily restricted in weight terms meaning it can only carry a partially loaded vehicle deck. In addition, the performance of the Isle of Arran in inclement weather on the Barra route, which is the longest and most exposed route in the network, has been poor in previous deployments for relief cover in the winter.
“We understand that neither the MV Isle of Arran or MV Hebridean Isles can be used on the seasonally quieter route to Coll and Tiree due to previous problems berthing MV Hebridean Isles. Instead of fixing the issue, a fleet - which is already stretched too thin and has seen only 2 new major ferries added since 2001 - loses further flexibility by removing appropriately sized vessels from routes which they should be serving. This only passes problems on to routes that require vessels with larger capacity, better facilities and better seagoing performance.
“Despite the inclement weather last week, it is the case that the freight provision remains inadequate. This is having a significant impact on businesses, including shops, fish farms, builders and allied trades as well as the general public. Shortages and delays which have real tangible financial impacts on our local economy. We are committed to continuing to work with the Scottish Government and CalMac to ensure more successful planning and deployment of future ferry services for island communities.”