The mv Loch Seaforth limping into port in Stornoway at around 3.45pm, escorted by two lifeboats.

Passengers and vehicles are stranded at the Stornoway ferry terminal after sailings of the Loch Seaforth were suspended today (1pm Wednesday 8th August)

As of 3.52pm today CalMac was predicting a repair review update at 6pm. This was later postponed to 8pm.

The ferry left Ullapool on time this morning but lost power on one engine on leaving Loch Broom and later suffered a total loss of power which lasted around an hour.

An RNLI lifeboat from Stornoway headed for the scene at 1pm and returned to Stornoway with the ferry. The lifeboat from Lochinver was also alerted and accompanied the ferry.

Also tasked was the Coastguard emergency tug (or ETV) Ievoli Black which had been in Stornoway at the weekend during the Lewis Carnival. The Ievoli Black had been intending to stay in Portree today on a similar visit but set off north to meet the ferry, although it was not required in the end.

The MV Loch Seaforth travelled very slowly to Stornoway arriving at 3.45pm.  It was using electrical power from its generators with the engines almost entirely out of action. Once the passengers and vehicles had disembarked, efforts were being made to restart the engines.

The company says: "Once she has arrived in port we will undertake a full assessment."

In statements after 1pm from CalMac Ferries, company indicated the vessel had lost power after leaving Ullapool this morning.

On Twitter, they stated:  "We are aware of the current situation regarding the power outage with MV Loch Seaforth. We are working hard to rectify this and will provide further regular updates."

A few minutes earlier they had tweeted: "Due to a technical issue, all sailings on this route are suspended until further notice."

Meanwhile travel via Tarbert and Skye has been badly affected by a fatal road traffic accident near the Sligachan junction on the Broadford-Portree road.  One person was killed and another seriously injured and flown to hospital in Glasgow.

Police say the A87 is currently closed just north of Sligachan Hotel, following a five-vehicle collision.    They have asked drivers to avoid the area for the time being.  Reports suggest it may be several hours before the road is reopened.  A road user told The Skye Times website that the tailback has reached back to Sconser.  Drivers are being encouraged to stick to double track roads as an alternative, as it is understood that Struan/Portree Road is now grid-locked. The official diversion is via Dunvegan and Edinbane adding 45/60 minutes to the journey times.

The need for an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) was highlighted again today (Wednesday) by this breakdown affecting the largest ferry in the CalMac network, said Isles MP Angus MacNeil.

Mr MacNeil is calling on the UK Government to once again look at the situation which has left the West Coast without an ETV based in Stornoway and is currently serviced by a vessel which also covers the Northern Isles.

He said: “It is lucky that the ETV, the only boat that could have assisted MV Loch Seaforth in the worst case scenario, was also on the West Coast.

“However this shows that for now we need to have an ETV based in Stornoway in case of a similar incident in future.

“We do not know at this stage what went wrong with MV Loch Seaforth but the point is that the Tug is for unforeseen circumstances.

“The one thing we know is that the unforeseen will happen and we need the insurance policy of a West Coast tug. The UK Department of Transport are dodging their responsibilities here and crossing their fingers which is not good enough.”  

He says he has made the case for an ETV time and time again and in 2016 presented a petition launched by local SNP councillors Rae Mackenzie and Gordon Murray to Downing Street.  The ETV in Stornoway was removed in 2011 as a cost cutting exercise by the UK Government.

But commenting on the welovestornoway.com Facebook page, Graham Macleod said: "It’s not a question of having to have a ETV on the West Coast but why a £42 million ferry is breaking down! Surely that kind of spend guarantees superb reliability?"