Scotland’s new transport minister admitted ferry breakdowns and disruption have been “intolerable” for islanders.
Greame Dey claimed the SNP government is doing it all it can to support operator CalMac after a series of long-standing problems and despite huge delays to government-backed construction projects.
The Angus South MSP said talks are under way to find new vessels including the potential charter of the MV Pentalina which serves Orkney.
His comments come after pressure from Highlands and islands MSPs in parliament on Wednesday.
The largest CalMac vessel, MV Loch Seaforth, is being repaired but work is taking longer than expected. A revised date of May 28 has already been pushed back to the end of the month at the earlier and bookings are suspended.
‘Families are desperate’
Meanwhile, the government has been under pressure after a ferries fiasco with two delayed vessels still under construction.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, who raised the issue in Holyrood, said: “I’ve been deluged in recent weeks from families desperate to visit relatives on the mainland who have had long-booked tickets cancelled. Businesses who can no longer get building materials to the islands or expert shell fish, or tourist businesses struggling to cope with the news all booking are suspended for a fortnight.”
The MV Seaforth should not be experiencing such disruption, he told parliament.
Mr Dey admitted: “I entirely recognise the intolerable nature of the situation for islanders on an individual and economic basis. I also realise what they want is action rather than warm words.”
He said specialist reports were commissioned to look at the faults on the Loch Seaforth.
Mr Dey added: “We are actively looking at accessing additional tonnage to take care of the immediate future.”
Labour MSP Katie Clark, who represents the West of Scotland region, said: “Part of the reason that we have this problem is we have this failure since 2011 to commission sufficient vessels.”