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Transport Scotland says it has no plans to buy Pentalina ferry for Western Isles – but might lease it

Joe Reade, chairman of Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, and MV Pentalina.
Joe Reade, chairman of Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, and MV Pentalina.

The Scottish Government has said it is urgently raising concerns about the lack of tonnage on west coast ferry routes.

It says it would even consider leasing a boat from Orkney, if the owner is willing to make it available.

A meeting was held on Wednesday between the transport minister, Jenny Gilruth MSP, and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMal), where the matter was raised.

Pentalina. Picture supplied by Pentland Ferries.

CalMac has seen a number of difficulties on the route, with managing director Robbie Drummond saying the network was “stretched”.

Ferry campaigners on Mull say they want urgent action to be taken as the number of spaces on ferries continues to fall.

Joe Reade, the chairman of the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, urged the Scottish Government to get round the table with the owners of a ferry from Orkney, known as the Pentalina.

Pentalina is still available

He said: “Last year the Pentalina – the catamaran owned by Pentland Ferries (PF) that was replaced by their new vessel the Alfred – was trialled around the network as a prospective charter vessel.

“The trials proved the Pentalina could operate to many west coast ports, and she would have delivered great improvements to Mull and Arran. ”

He added: “The Pentalina is still available however, and could be purchased within weeks if there was a will to do so. We have written to Transport Scotland urging them look at the Pentalina urgently.”

Joe Reade, chairman of Mull and Iona Ferry Committee. Picture by Joe Reade.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government and Transport Scotland continue to charge CalMac Ferries Ltd. and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL). with seeking potential second hand tonnage to improve operational resilience on the Clyde and Hebrides ferry routes.

Transport minister is ‘live’ to issue

“The previous charters of MV Arrow and recent purchase of the MV Utne (now MV Loch Frisa) is evidence of this ongoing commitment to improve and support the existing fleet in this way.

“The transport minister is live to the associated issues regarding additional tonnage.

“The MV Pentalina was considered for a possible charter in 2021, although it was withdrawn from availability by its owner before the formal agreement was signed.

“Due to the age of the vessel – approaching 15 years – we would not consider purchasing but remain open to exploring a charter option should this be reconsidered by the vessel owner.

“We would of course have to consider the terms and affordability of any arrangement.”

Pentland Ferries and CMal have been approached for comment.

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