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In a crippling blow to businesses of all kinds in various parts of the Hebrides, CalMac has this afternoon (16.30, Friday May 14) announced yet another delay in the return of the critically important MV Loch Seaforth ferry on to the premier island ferry route between Stornoway and Ullapool.

Ongoing repairs to the MV Loch Seaforth have revealed further issues which will require attention before the vessel can return to service, say CalMac.

The vessel was expected to return to the Stornoway-Ullapool route by Friday 21 May at the earliest and this date has nowhad to be pushed back by several days with Friday 28 May now being the earliest expected return.

A further update confirming these dates will be issued on Monday May 17 following assessment by independent engineers who will be investigating the issue further over the weekend.

Specialist engineers working on the MV Loch Seaforth have reported that more work must be carried out to her engines, while the crankshaft also requires work.

Plans are being put in place to ensure that essential freight continues to be brought to and from the Western Isles as a matter of urgency.

Temporary changes to vessels across the network will remain in place for the time being.

CalMac Managing Director Robbie Drummond said: “This is frustrating news, as we were expecting to see the Loch Seaforth return to service sooner than this. We will continue to work closely with customers to keep them updated of the latest situation and to minimise further disruption.”

It was only yesterday (Thursday) that CalMac announced a delay until May 21.

And this morning Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said they had received assurances during a Comhairle/CalMac meeting earlier this week that the vessel was on course for its scheduled return on May 11. Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, Cllr Uisdean Robertson, said then: "We now understand that the Loch Seaforth's return will be delayed beyond the previously stated date of 17th because of further engine problems. That is extremely disappointing, particularly as Cal-Mac informed us this week that the return of the Loch Seaforth was on schedule. Not only will this cause further disruption on the Stornoway Ullapool service, there will also be the consequent knock on effect to services in Uist and Barra.”