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The mystery return of MV Alfred to Stornoway yesterday (Friday 27 October) is explained by news that the vessel has developed a technical fault during her movements around the Western Isles.

And after her berthing attempts this week at three Western Isles ports, it’s unlikely that she will ever return to the isles on active service.

The £1million-a-month charter vessel has been out of commission for several weeks as she has repairs carried out in Ayr, but was then brought almost immediately to Stornoway in the hope that she would fit onto the linkspan and be able to take up freight duty while Loch Seaforth is away, liberating the Hebridean Isles to move elsewhere in the network.

But berthing trials were unsuccessful in Stornoway, and CalMac sent her south to see whether she could be of service at Lochmaddy or even Tarbert.

Somewhere on the route a fault with her thruster began to show up, and she’s spent much of today in Stornoway while engineers planned a repair schedule.

Now, according to a CalMac spokesperson, she’s heading back to Tarbert from where, today (Saturday,  she will travel on to Troon to allow contractor attendance for repairs to her thruster.

Assuming these are successful, the spokesperson said: “MV Alfred will take over service from MV Caledonian Isles on Saturday 4 November, which will allow MV Caledonian Isles to carry out network berthing trials.”

Caledonian Isles is currently serving the Ardrossan run to Brodick on the Isle of Arran.

CalMac went on to say: “MV Hebridean Isles will undertake the Stornoway-Ullapool freight service until 2 November when MV Arrow will take over.

“MV Hebridean Isles deployment after 2 November has yet to be confirmed and will be announced as soon as possible.”

The Hebridean Isles is herself due to head off for her annual upgrade soon, having spent 10 of the past 12 months in dock undergoing £2.5million-worth of repairs to bring her back to serviceability.