Transport Scotland has announced the addition of a small Norwegian vessel, MV Utne, to the CalMac fleet to ease pressures on ferry services.
The vessel will be used to prop up the Oban-Craignuire route which will allow other ferries within the fleet to be redeployed elsewhere.
The hope is that the £9 million addition to the fleet will strengthen CalMac’s services in western Scotland.
The ferry operator has recently seen its ability to provide reliable services along its routes challenged due to issues such as Covid-19 outbreaks and its ageing fleet.
Several vessels have had to be taken out of service to be deep-cleaned after crew members tested positive for Covid-19.
The vessel is not expected to enter into service until 2022, however, this is still sooner than the delivery on CalMac’s intended vessel for the route currently being built by Ferguson Marine.
The MV Utne is currently owned by Norwegian shipping firm Norled, where it has been in operation for the past five years.
It is due to be transferred to Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) at the end of October.
The 50 metre-long vessel was built in 2014 and will accommodate 195 passengers and 34 cars.
‘Transport links to and from our islands are key to supporting community life’
Minister for Transport, Graeme Dey said: “I’m very pleased to announce that MV Utne has been purchased by CMAL to join the ferry fleet serving the Clyde and Hebrides network.
“We have always said we would look to the second-hand market for additional vessels to support our island communities, and this purchase is the result of this ongoing work.
“The Scottish Government has committed £580 million to fund new ferries and port investments over the next five years.
“We continue to work with CMAL and CalMac to develop potential programmes that will deliver additional improvements to the network.”
The ferry services that CalMac provide are essential to connecting the people living on the western islands to the mainland.
Robin Currie, leader of Argyll and Bute Council, said: “Sustainable transport links to and from our islands are key to supporting community life, and attracting the people and skills we need for a successful future.
“We will continue to raise the local and national importance of this, and look forward to hearing more details about how this additional ferry will be put to work for our communities, businesses and visitors.”
The purchase of the MV Utne come after Ferguson Marine, which is currently building the vessel originally intended for the route the MV Utne will be on, lost out on building two new ferries for CalMac.
The shipyard in Port Glasgow failed to make the shortlist and instead the building of the new vessels will fall to a shipyard in either Poland, Turkey or Romania.
The MV Utne, before it can enter service, will have to go through modification to bring it in line with the rest of the CalMac fleet with the crew then having the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new ferry.