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CalMac could extend charter on £1m-a-month ferry despite knowing it wouldn’t fit in Stornoway port ‘before trial’

Operator won't rule out keeping on the MV Alfred after reports it could remain in service for an extra six months.

MV Alfred
MV Alfred ferry, which is currently being repaired, cannot fir in Stornoway Port. Image: Pentland Ferries.

The use of MV Alfred, deemed “too big” to dock at the port of Stornoway, could now be extended as well as the use of MV Arrow.

According to reports the costly emergency ferries chartered by Calmac will be extended – costing the taxpayer £6 million.

MV Alfred, owned by Pentland Ferries which has been chartered at the cost of £9m for nine months, currently lies out of action after breaking down for the second time in a month.

A six-month extension, by Scottish Government-owned Calmac for MV Alfred, would reportedly cost taxpayers £6m on top of the £9m already committed.

MV Alfred
The rental ferry is currently undergoing repairs. Image Credit: Pentland Ferries

That is on top of the further rental of the MV Arrow, brought in to take over the Ullapool – Stornoway route in its stead.

However, despite the issues it is understood there are hopes for an extension of the ferry rental period for another six months and perhaps even longer.

And it is reportedly due to make a comeback covering one of the busiest routes, to and from Arran on Saturday.

A Calmac spokesperson said:  “Calmac is aware that the Alfred wasn’t going to fit in every port but has carried out berthing trials just in case.

“The issues at Stornoway port have not affected service in any way at all.

“We have chartered the Arrow on occasion before, as well as other small vessels for routes such as those out of Mallaig.

“In terms of charter extension, we will announce further updates in due course.”

MV Alfred out of order

The news comes after discovering the Alfred cannot run one of Scotland’s busiest ferry routes as it was ‘too big’ for the port of Stornoway.

This meant plans to provide freight services between Ullapool and Stornoway took another step back.

Gearbox issues spotted on the boat at the end of September originally led to cancellations to and from Arran, while repairs were undertaken for three weeks.

The incident led to delays in sea trials on the route to Stornoway to confirm that it can be used to cover when MV Loch Seaforth goes for its annual overhaul.

MV Alfred is now out of service due to an issue with her thruster that needs repairs to be undertaken.

Calmac lead in commercial discussions

A Transport Scotland spokesperson added: “We have previously highlighted our commitment to secure or retain a major vessel for resilience purposes in the CalMac fleet.

“It is for CalMac to lead these commercial discussions.

“The current charter for MV Alfred runs to January, although it will be adjusted to account for the period the vessel was out of service and therefore off charter. We will in due course confirm arrangements beyond that period – leading up to the delivery of MV Glen Sannox.

“It was always understood that the temporarily chartered Alfred may not fit all of the major vessel ports, but in a resilience situation, she would allow another vessel to be released to support and minimise disruption.

“As has been the case in previous years, the MV Arrow has been chartered to cover the freight service to Stornoway during MV Loch Seaforth’s overhaul.”

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