The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has raised safety over a potential catamaran charter.
The Scottish Government is considering chartering the MV Pentalina to operate on CalMac routes amidst ferry disruptions.
Island communities have been impacted by a number of ferry breakdowns which prevent people from travelling to and from the mainland.
The recent repairs on CalMac’s newest and largest vessel, the MV Loch Seaforth, has resulted in many cancellations and prevented tourist businesses from fully operating. The loss of this ferry led the government to “actively” look for additional vessels to charter.
At Topical Questions on May 26 2021, Transport Minister Graeme Dey, said: “We are actively exploring opportunities for chartering additional tonnage, including consideration of the suitability of MV Pentalina, to increase resilience across the network.”
Last month, Highland Council produced a list of short-term measures to resolve the ferry problem, which included chartering the MV Pentalina to operate the Craignure to Oban service.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has now written a letter to the chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency concerning the safety of the vessel.
He wrote: “The Pentalina has been laid up in Kirkwall since November 2020 and we are very concerned that crew and passenger safety could be threatened by the chartering of an inappropriate vessel on CHFS routes, as well as leaving the taxpayer with a significant dry dock bill.
“Specifically, we understand from former crew members that the MV Pentalina, a catamaran, has undergone significant alterations to its aluminium superstructure which make it inappropriate for CalMac routes.”
Mr Lynch highlights that the alterations may have rendered the MV Pentalina unsafe to operate commercially.
He added: “My Members working on CalMac ferries are very concerned at the impact on maritime safety and their terms and conditions of employment from the possible introduction of the Pentalina on CHFS routes.”
The general secretary is asking for an “urgent update” from surveyors on the “structural integrity” of the vessel. Further, he has requested that information is shared on when a survey was last conducted, the results of this, and details of all alterations since 2015.
In response to the safety concerns raised, Robbie Drummond, the managing director of CalMac, said: “We have said many times that we would welcome any additional vessel on our network as long as it was safe and suitable.
“There are detailed processes and checks in place through the Maritime Coastguard Agency as well as Lloyds Register to ensure that safety and suitability is in place.
“We continue to work with Transport Scotland to look at the possibility of the MV Pentalina being brought onto our routes and discussions are ongoing.”