A series of meetings and protests relating to the ongoing ferry crisis took place today (Thursday August 4).
It is claimed as a result that:
- MV Hebrides will be back in service on Sunday 7 August
- The Transport Minister agreed to look at whether a compensation scheme can be created from the financial penalties Transport Scotland receives from CalMac for sailings which do not go ahead
- The Scottish Government has recognised the need for the Uig Triangle to be served by two vessels to ensure adequate resilience
- The Scottish Government is trying to source an extra vessel that can be on standby for when a vessel breaks down
- CalMac and Transport Scotland have been left in no doubt that the current situation is unendurable.
And Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) – the industry led Destination Management Organisation for the islands – said they were dismayed and angry that there is no end to the deepening ferry crisis which is causing extremely serious issues for both tourism and our wider community. "Over many years OHT have implored the Scottish Government (SG) to invest in a new fit for purpose fleet, but there continues to be no action to date resulting in the situation we find ourselves in today. As Kenny MacLeod of Harris Development said, it is a Mayday call from the islands – we need URGENT help."
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Macneil and MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today met with Minister for Transport, Jenny Gilruth MSP, along with CalMac, CMAL, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and representatives of the Ferries Community Board to raise their concern about the present disruption to the routes served by MV Hebrides.
On Tuesday, the second fault in a week with MV Hebrides’ CO2 firefighting system caused her withdrawal from routes to Harris and North Uist. Sailings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were cancelled, with MV Isle of Mull repositioning today to operate services between Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy from Friday 5 August. It is currently anticipated that MV Hebrides will be back in service on Sunday 7 August.
Angus MacNeil MP said: “Clearly, at a time when the islands are making money in the summer with the ferries, this is a terrible time for them to breakdown. RET was set up to increase the economic activity on the islands, when the boats are not sailing, the effects are acutely felt.
“I am encouraged that the Scottish Government are trying to source an extra vessel that can be on standby when a vessel breaks down which many of us have urged them to do.”
Alasdair Allan MSP said: “I am grateful to the Minister for organising today’s meeting and for the update on the situation.
“I made clear the overwhelming sense of frustration of affected communities. I appreciate the uniqueness of the situation CalMac faces in having a firefighting system repaired and cleared by the MCA, only to see the same issue reoccur days later. However, that’s of no solace to the communities that have seen their vessel taken out of service for the fifth time this year. It’s ultimately islanders and island businesses and that pay the price of these large scale disruptions.
“The Minister agreed to look at whether a compensation scheme can be created from the financial penalties Transport Scotland receives from CalMac as a result of sailings which do not go ahead. I was also pleased to hear the Scottish Government’s recognition of the need for the Uig Triangle to be served by two vessels to ensure adequate resilience.
”However, the meeting left CalMac and Transport Scotland in no doubt that the current situation is unendurable.”
Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) told the Scottish Government: "This year, as COVID recovery continues, we have gone from ferry crisis to ferry crisis in peak season and as a result the biggest private sector of the island economy is suffering from loss of revenue – impacting jobs and business sustainability. The rising costs for businesses and the impending shut down of the Uig triangle service this winter means we are facing a perilous economic situation with potentially irreversible social impact.
"We have had visitors cancel their holidays, leaving accommodation and activities providers with late cancellations, no fresh food in supermarkets, restaurant struggling to get supplies, visitors sleeping in cars, visitors rerouted to ferries hundreds of miles north and south which are full and spending days trying to get off (and on) island (causing extra cost) and the list goes on. The Outer Hebrides is in real risk of being a destination visitors may avoid because of ferry unreliability; indeed, we are seeing a drop in visitor numbers already."
Sarah MacLean, CEO, OHT said they called on the Scottish Government to:
- Invest in CalMac’s ageing fleet and provide adequate resilience and capacity
- Provide short term solutions until the fleet is resilient
- Provide compensation to local businesses who have suffered the impact of ferry disruption
- Provide adequate compensation to affected travellers
- Invest in the destination to counteract negative ferry disruption stories and negative economic impact