Not plain sailing as first summer ferry arrives five weeks late

The MV Isle of Arran was a welcome visitor to Campbeltown Loch last week.
The MV Isle of Arran was a welcome visitor to Campbeltown Loch last week.

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The MV Isle of Arran returned to Campbeltown Loch last week as the town’s seasonal ferry service resumed after a five-week delay.

The Campbeltown-Ardrossan summer service was scheduled to begin on April 29, but had to be postponed twice to allow vessels to be redeployed across CalMac’s routes while the MV Loch Seaforth underwent repairs.

Following successful sea trials on the Loch Seaforth, the vessel returned to service on Monday May 31.

The Isle of Arran docked at Campbeltown’s New Quay at 8.30pm last Thursday, June 3, before returning to Ardrossan at 6.45am the following morning.

The MV Isle of Arran returned to Campbeltown last week.
The MV Isle of Arran returned to Campbeltown last week.

Despite only five vehicles and 10 foot passengers disembarking in Campbeltown, some people reported being unable to reserve a ticket on the ferry due to it being ‘fully booked’.

Tommy Gore, area operations manager (Clyde) for CalMac, told the Courier: ‘Covid restrictions have affected the capacity we can offer to passengers, so the number of spaces available for booking on all of our routes are much lower than usual.

‘We have an emergency medical appointment protocol which caters for individuals who have a medical appointment but are unable to get a vehicle booking.

‘A number of ‘turn up and go’ spaces are also free for people who need to travel at the last minute.’

During June, July and August there is a change to the Campbeltown-Ardrossan route timetable.

All sailings on Thursdays and Fridays, in both directions, now include a stop at Brodick on the Isle of Arran.

The Ardrossan departure on Thursdays and Fridays, will now be at 4.45pm instead of the previous 6.40pm, arriving in Campbeltown at 8.25pm instead of 9.25pm.

The Friday morning sailing is now at 6.45am instead of 7.30am.

The Sunday service remains unchanged.

Investigations into the breakdown of the Loch Seaforth that led to disruption across the CalMac network are nearing completion.

Early indications are that piston screws may have failed, causing a breakdown of the port engine.

These piston screws should have been replaced at a dry-docking schedule of the Loch Seaforth in 2019. A full and independent report has been commissioned from a leading global investigations company to find out why this did not happen.

Subsequent repairs to the engines should have seen the ferry return to service on May 17 but further and separate damage was caused by the presence of debris in the system when the engines were started up.

This delayed the return to service until May 31 while further remedial work was performed.

Robert Morrison, CalMac’s operations director, said: ‘We recognise that this has been an extremely challenging time for customers and staff and again apologise for the disruptions over the past few weeks.’