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Scottish Western Isles Service Sees 'Seaforth' Go for Repairs on the Clyde

26th April 2021
Above file photo of Isle of Arran (Eilean Arainn) at its namesake island when berthed at Brodick on the Firth of Clyde. The veteran vessel has been deployed by Scottish ferry operator, CalMac to a Western Isles service albeit on a temporary overnight freight-only basis. Above file photo of Isle of Arran (Eilean Arainn) at its namesake island when berthed at Brodick on the Firth of Clyde. The veteran vessel has been deployed by Scottish ferry operator, CalMac to a Western Isles service albeit on a temporary overnight freight-only basis. Credit: Jehan Ashmore

A spare ferry that operates Scotland's most southerly island year round ferry route (peak times) on the Clyde, the MV Isle of Arran, has according to CalMac, since last week temporarily taken over an overnight freight run in the Western Isles.

This is to provide essential freight cover between Ullapool and Stornaway, the capital of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

Isle of Arran is providing two freight sailings while the MV Loch Seaforth is being replaced. Afloat adds the Loch Seaforth is the largest ship in the Scottish state run operator, and which was built by the same shipyard of Irish Ferries cruiseferry W.B. Yeats.

The MV Isle of Lewis was previously carrying out this Western Isles service - however, the ferry is unable to continue to do this as it cannot maintain three return crossings in 24 hours due to crew availability. CalMac cited last Friday, that it will continue to operate the day services.

Specialist engineers are currently working on the Loch Seaforth engines in a yard in Greenock, on the Clyde and with the ferry back in service as soon as possible.

CalMac added this will mean that one ferry will be serving the Ardrossan-Brodick (Isle of Arran) route from this Thursday, 29 April, the MV Caledonian Isles, until a timescale for repairs has been confirmed.

Additional capacity will be provided by doubling up sailings on the Claonaig-Lochranza route during this time.

Passengers who have already booked sailings between Ardrossan and Brodick during this period will be offered alternative sailings as a priority. Space will be limited on 30 April and 1 May.

The 'summer' ferry service to the Mull of Kintyre through Campbeltown (from Ardrossan), which was set to restart on 29 April, has been suspended to accommodate essential demand elsewhere.

These changes were made by using a route prioritisation process which allows CalMac to move ferries around to where demand is most needed when there is extra pressure on the network.

The possibility of hiring a vessel on a temporary basis has been explored but unfortunately, none are available at short notice. This includes the Pentalina which is not going to be free for a number of weeks. Afloat adds this ferry is a former Pentland Ferries that served the Orkney Islands. 

Robbie Drummond, Managing Director of CalMac, said: "It is vital that a freight service is provided on the Stornoway-Ullapool route and this movement of vessels is necessary to provide this.

"This situation is far from ideal, and we apologise for how these changes will affect passengers. We will endeavour to offer alternative sailings to everyone who has already booked tickets between Ardrossan and Brodick.

"We know how disruptive this will be for customers and we will keep everyone informed of any further developments. Thank you for your patience at this time."

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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