The latest break down of the Corran Ferry has left a council pondering bringing in the Navy.
Military landing craft could fill the gap while the Lochaber vessel is out of action, Highland councillors will be told next week.
At Highland Council’s Lochaber Committee Meeting on Tuesday, an update on the ferry situation will be given.
The service was suspended on July 15 after a steering problem lead to the ferry bumping into a rock.
The back-up vessel, the Maid of Glencoul, was unavailable due to ongoing refit works, leaving motorists facing massive detours for motorists.
Eventually on July 20 the ferry recommenced its operations. Costs to the council resulting from the incident added up to £39,000, including £30,000 in loss of fares and income, £6,000 for steering repair, £5,000 for inspection using an ROV. A total of £2,000 in fuel costs were saved.
The report before councillors considers alternative replacement vessels in the event of a similar situation occurring.
It states: “The navy has been mentioned. Landing craft would appear to be the type of vessel they may have, but to transport an equivalent number of cars they would require more than one.
“This could be trialled however they too tend to have ramps at the bows so
may not be able to sit end-on to the slip in the tide race. (If enough cars cannot be transported quickly enough traffic queues quickly build up out onto the A82.)”
However, council officers said because of the volume of cars that are carried more than one landing craft would be needed.
Also, the ferry’s slipways are not suitable for the military craft.
The report to Tuesday’s Lochaber Committee also praised the “meticulous” and “diligent” work of the ferry’s staff in keeping incidence of breakdowns on the ferry at a low level.
“Despite the age of the vessels (17 and 42 years) incidence of breakdowns or groundings is significantly less than Calmac, who experience such situations approximately once per month across their fleet,” says the report.
“Highland Council have been able to sustain this due to their meticulous maintenance regime and the constant diligence of the Council’s ferry team. However the increasing age of the vessels inevitably means that the likelihood of mechanical failure is rising.