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CalMac warns Uist residents of a difficult winter but promises better services

At a recent meeting in the Western Isles, CalMac managing director Robbie Drummond admitted challenges to ferry services sas Uig harbour closes.

He said the work will be ‘painful for everyone’ and also talked about CalMac’s ageing fleet, waring that there are no spare vessels while locals at the meeting voiced their concerns.

John Daniel Peteranna’s renewable energy company Energee is based in South Uist, but has customers across the Hebrides and as far away as Orkney.

Members of the Lochboisdale Ferry Users Group, a committee set up to be a voice for the Uist community, are reporting that there seems to be ferry chaos in the area at the moment.

In a report published in July, it was estimated Uist businesses lost out on £648,000 due to the May Lochboisdale-Mallaig ferry closure.

That was a two-week closure, so the impact of the upcoming six-month closure of Uig harbour is a major cause for concern for Western Isles locals.

Earlier this month, they met CalMac’s managing director, Robbie Drummond, to discuss the closure and the issues it will cause for the community.

Mr Drummond said the resilience of CalMac ferries was the main point of discussion, and added: ‘We accept that the service has been challenged over the past six months.’

He says that this is due to a number of factors outside of CalMac’s control. They have ‘no spare vessels’ in the fleet, of which ‘over a third are past their life expectancy’.

This means they are more likely to need repairs, which ‘global supply chain issues’, Mr Drummond says, have made more challenging than ever. Add in ‘weather changes’ including ‘much deeper storms’, and it looks like there will be more disruption.

Most recently, an issue with Hebrides’ firefighting system led to it being the latest of the fleet to be pulled from service.

Lord of the Isles needed costly repairs in May, which were also to fix a faulty fire safety system. In such old vessels, breakdowns like these seem inevitable.

The work on Uig harbour will be ‘painful for everyone’ in the short term, but there will be ‘a much better service once there is a new facility there.’

Ships Montly - January 2024

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