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Resources within the ferry network are being stretched so thinly that CalMac could become unable to operate an effective service to and from the Western Isles from this weekend.

A combination of breakdowns and annual service requirements, including one which is now set to run up to five weeks over schedule, means that CalMac is having to prioritise some services on a passenger-by-passenger basis.

A possible weather disruption to the Lochmaddy to Ullapool service on Sunday has been notified to customers, on the same day that CalMac warned that MV Caledonian Isles, currently undergoing annual overhaul works, could be three to five weeks behind schedule returning from dry dock.

Although Caledonian Isles routinely serves the Arran Ardrossan route, her absence is set to have wide-ranging implications across the Western Isles.

Area operations manager Fiona Galbraith has today reported on the further disruption, saying: “As some of you will be aware, due to issues with her engine, it has been necessary to extend the annual overhaul of MV Caledonian Isles.

“I am sorry to say that this will mean changes to the current vessel deployments scheduled for the next few weeks in the Outer Hebrides.

“Details of changes are as follows: MV Hebrides will remain on the Lochmaddy service until she departs for her overhaul on 13 March.

“She will be relieved by MV Clansman and not MV Finlaggan as previously planned. MV Clansman will operate the published timetable for the Uig closure.

“As a result of MV Clansman being deployed to Lochmaddy, MV Lord of the Isles will remain on the Coll/Tiree/Colonsay service until at least 16 February which means that the MV Isle of Mull will remain on a combined service for Lochboisdale and Castlebay as MV Isle of Lewis will also be in annual overhaul from the beginning of February.

“This will result in a reduction in capacity for both Uist and Barra and I am aware that service to Uist is already reduced as a result of the Uig closure.

“Myself and my port teams will be working through the booked traffic early next week ensuring that space is allocated fairly to both Uist and Barra.

“The reduced capacity of 30 passengers on the MV Isle of Mull on Monday and Wednesday will be extended for the period of the shared service.

“In order to fairly manage capacity between Uist and Barra during this period, bookings can only be made via telephone by contacting either the Customer Engagement Centre or Lochboisdale, Castlebay or Oban port offices.

“I am very sorry for the issues this will cause to our communities when we are already restricted throughout the Western Isles as a result of The Highland Council's closure of Uig.

“Please be assured that we will continue to monitor the situation and ensure that essential supplies are prioritised at all times.”

Also today, the 1pm Stornoway to Ullapool ferry was delayed until 3.15pm by a reported obstruction in the bow thruster.

MV Loch Seaforth remained tied up at the pier while divers were in the water investigating the source of the obstruction.

Elsewhere in the network, CalMac also continues to wrestle with an ongoing issue with MV Hebridean Isles bow visor hook, a fuel pump issue on MV Loch Dunvegan and an issue with the aft propulsion issue on the MV Isle of Cumbrae.