A ship chartered by the the Scottish Government to relieve the pressure on the Stornoway to Ullapool route has broken down after less than a week.
Freight vessel MV Arrow joined the CalMac fleet on Monday on a short-term charter until September 7.
Now her sailings are cancelled until the end of the month.
It is understood the 23-year-old freight vessel was suffering an oil leak as a result of a fishing rope being caught around her propellers on Friday night.
Divers were able to remove the rope but the leak meant the ferry needed repairs at a dry dock. It is the latest in a series of problems causing disruption to the vital ferry links to Scotland’s islands.
Why was the new ship needed?
MV Arrow was scheduled for a number of overnight freight sailings on the busy Stornoway to Ullapool route, allowing MV Loch Seaforth to provide additional passenger sailings at busy times.
It was due to deliver Loch Seaforth’s evening freight sailing six days a week, and let Loch Seaforth deliver two additional passenger sailings per week.
It would have brought more than 50% of additional freight capacity for hauliers following a series of issues in recent months.
Robbie Drummond, managing director of Calmac, said: “The MV Loch Seaforth will resume night freight sailings and commercial customers are being made aware of this change. Our customer service team will try to accommodate any customers who were booked on to the two additional weekly passenger sailings in the meantime.”
Passengers have complained of being unable to get a booking on the route – and others – for three weeks because of social distancing reducing capacity by around a third.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has repeatedly called for more capacity on the route and had raised the availability of the vessel with the Transport Minister.
The 122-metre-long Arrow is Danish-owned and managed by Seatruck. She has ongoing periodic charter agreements with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
The Arrow hit the headlines earlier this month with a report into it running aground at the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour.
The NorthLink service got into difficulties during manoeuvres on its arrival from Lerwick in Shetland at 7.27am on June 25 last year.