The much delayed new £42 million ferry for the main service to the Outer Hebrides finally sailed from its German shipyard yesterday.
But it is not yet clear when the MV Loch Seaforth – which will be the biggest ever ferry in the Caledonian MacBrayne fleet – will be on the Stornoway to Ullapool route as necessary pier works at the Lewis town are still not finished.
A spokeswoman for CalMac was unable to give any start date yesterday.
The ship was originally scheduled to begin service in July, and then again in September and October – but the hold-up was mainly caused by an electrical fit out and completion of the passenger spaces together with testing and commissioning.
The MV Loch Seaforth has been built at the Flensburger shipyard, which suffered financial problems during the building, causing more worries.
The ship also had go to Odense in Denmark to be dry-docked for modifications to propeller hubs. Sea trials were also put back.
But now it is heading to Scotland after legal safety certificates to enable the ship to commercially sail with passengers and freight lorries were issued. It due in Greenock on Friday.
Works to upgrade and extend the ferry berth at Stornoway has also been hit by delays. Bad weather may create further disruptions.
The new ferry will be owned by the Lloyds Banking Group which will lease it to Scottish government company Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL).
In turn, CMAL will charter her to Caledonian MacBrayne, the operator of the route.
The new 380-feet roll on-roll off vehicle passenger ferry will be capable of operating 24 hours a day and will have a capacity for up to 700 passengers, and 143 cars or 20 commercial vehicles.
Meanwhile, the current vessel on the route, the ageing MV Isle of Lewis, cancelled its afternoon run yesterday because of the conditions.