Caledonian MacBrayne’s £41.8 million flagship Loch Seaforth reached Scottish waters on 7 November 2014, but the 700-passenger/143-car vessel seems unlikely to enter service between Ullapool and Stornoway until 22 February – and then only carrying passengers.
The car ferry service will not resume until 7 April after installation by R. J. MacLeod of a new Ullapool linkspan designed and constructed by MacGregor (Cargotec). While the 8,478gt Loch Seaforth makes two passenger return trips a day, previous route vessels Isle of Lewis (1995/6,753gt) and chartered ro-ro ferry Clipper Ranger (1998/7,606gt) will provide a car/passenger and freight service from Stornoway to Uig, Isle of Skye, with three-hour journey times.
CalMac managing director Martin Dorchester explained: ‘It has proved to be a significant logistical challenge, especially matching the different vessels to different tides and finding a way of continuing to provide a service from Stornoway, but we believe we have found a good solution.’
Originally expected in service in time for summer 2014, Loch Seaforth was delayed, as Flensburg-based German builders FSG suffered financial problems, the vessel also having to go to Odense, Denmark for modifications.