Barra residents have even longer to wait for the return of their main ferry connection to the mainland, with confirmation yesterday (Tuesday 16 February) that MV Isle of Lewis is to be held back in Aberdeen.

The ferry has been undergoing annual upgrade in dry dock and was due to be back in service on Friday (19 February).

Yesterday CalMac officially confirmed news already reported locally, that the ferry has a further technical problem and will not be back until Tuesday 23 February at the earliest.

Finlay MacRae, head of operations for CalMac, said: "The MV Isle of Lewis will be back in service a little later than expected due to an issue being identified during its time in dry dock. This is being addressed and we hope to have the vessel back on the Barra route next week.”

The island has been without a reliable service on the Castlebay Oban route since the Isle of Lewis left on 27 January, with the initial expectation that she would be back in service today (Wednesday 17 February).

Technical problems on several vessels, now combined with a prolonged spell of stormy weather, has left supply problems for the islands.

Locally, a spokesman for CalMac said on Monday: “Being acutely aware of the impact recent cancellations have had, we will continue to look at our options to provide a service.

“However, the forecast for Wednesday is equally poor (and) having consulted with masters of MVs Hebridean Isles, Isle of Arran, Lord of the Isles, Isle of Mull, Hebrides and Finlaggan for any relief options, service may not be possible before Thursday 18 February. 

“MV Isle of Lewis was expected to be back on service Friday but an emergent issue with her bow thrusters has added a delay to her return from annual overhaul. 

“MV Hebridean Isles will continue as the relief service vessel until MV Isle of Lewis returns to operational service.”