CalMac engineers are being flown into Stornoway today (Tuesday November 12th) and tomorrow to work on a series of technical faults on the newly-overhauled MV Loch Seaforth.

And an extra vessel has been scheduled to run between Uig and Tarbert tonight and Thursday, solely to ensure that the households of Stornoway do not run out of gas for domestic heating while the ferry is out of commission.

The Loch Seaforth is receiving attention for three separate faults, which CalMac describes as “arising after annual overhaul.” The ferry returned to Stornoway from a three-week dry-dock upgrade on Sunday (November 10th) but is “unable to return to service as planned.”

She is currently scheduled to remain off the Stornoway Ullapool service until Saturday, with MV Isle of Lewis running a revised timetable, including a night-time freight run.

Low passenger bookings mean that freight traffic can be carried during the day, but the closed deck of the Isle of Lewis means that tankers carrying domestic heating gas for Scottish Gas cannot be brought on that route.

To address that issue, tonight and on Thursday MV Hebrides will leave Uig for Tarbert at 10pm to allow two tankers of gas to be brought by road, arriving in Stornoway at about 1am and topping up supplies in Stornoway as householders turn up their heating for winter.

Meanwhile a specialist CalMac engineer arrived by air this morning and boarded the Loch Seaforth around 8.30am, with more technical personnel expected to be flown in tomorrow. It’s not clear whether CalMac’s new resilience-boosting mobile maintenance team have been brought to Stornoway. Launched in July, they were described as: “a flexible resource that can be deployed immediately to support on-board engineers with any technical issues.”

Loch Seaforth successfully passed her sea trials before leaving Liverpool last week, but since arriving in Stornoway three problems have emerged. There is a technical issue being investigated with her pitch control, a software issue affecting one of the generators and a further issue with the port engine. Between them, these faults have brought her re-entry to service to a halt.

CalMac are working on a worst-case scenario and have planned for the Isle of Lewis to continue on the Stornoway route up to and including Friday. The timetable has been revised to allow for her longer journey time.

CalMac have also negotiated with Citylink, who provide the bus connections between Ullapool and Inverness, and they have adapted their timetable this week to ensure that passengers can travel onwards despite the schedule disruption.
The picture shows MV Isle of Lewis continuing her service on the Stornoway Ullapool route (Chris Murray).