MV Hebrides update and latest contingency plans
Caledonian MacBrayne can confirm that, weather permitting, MV Hebrides will move from her current location at the pier in Lochmaddy, North Uist tomorrow (Thursday September 29) and begin her journey to Greenock. She will enter dry dock at the end of the week.
Poor weather conditions over the last 36 hours or so, and continuing into tomorrow morning, have caused disruptions elsewhere on the network and cancellations of return sailings of Isle of Barra's vessel, MV Isle of Lewis, from Castlebay to Oban.
To overcome this backlog of freight and passengers and to maintain CalMac's lifeline commitments in Barra, MV Isle of Lewis will sail north to Uig on Skye on Thursday, where she will disembark Barra traffic, before making a return journey to Lochmaddy - this should clear the majority of the Uists freight backlog which has accumulated and will ease the strain at both sides of the Minch. The Lewis, on return to Uig, will then embark traffic for the Isle of Barra, before making her way back south to Castlebay.
In the meantime, also on Thursday, MV Clansman is to transfer to the Skye/North Uist/Isle of Harris triangular service and will pick up the regular three-way timetable on Friday (September 30), returning the route to normal.
MV Lord of the Isles (LOTI), which has performed such excellent emergency interim service to keep the Uists connected to the mainland, despite the adverse weather conditions, will transfer to Oban tomorrow (Thursday), to take up MV Clansman's routes to Coll, Tiree and Colonsay on Friday.
It does mean that there will be a temporary loss of LOTI on the dedicated Lochboisdale to Mallaig route, as well as a decrease in capacity on the run from Mallaig to Armadale, Isle of Skye - this latter service, however, will continue to operate, albeit that the company accepts that it will encounter some tidal restrictions.
"It is hoped that these contingencies, which will be in place for at least a week, will provide a robust and sustainable service until MV Hebrides is available to return to her usual place within the network," said CalMac's Operations Director Drew Collier. "We know that there will be some people who are disappointed with our choices, but we believe there is an overwhelming majority who will welcome these as sensible, considered and fitting decisions. The capacity afforded by MV Clansman, MV Hebrides' sister ship, should keep the Uists' traffic on an even keel, particularly as we are past the summer's peak season, despite the temporary loss of the Lochboisdale service.
"For Coll, Tiree and Colonsay, LOTI is an already familiar face, having served these routes well for many years. Our crews and port staff have worked tirelessly with us on these contingencies and are as much a part of the choices, based on their exceptional knowledge of the network and our communities. We offer genuine thanks to both them and all our passengers who have been so patient. Full details of these timetabling changes can be found on our website and customers are advised to check carefully and regularly."
All updates can be found at www.calmac.co.uk and on the company's social media channels.