MV Pentalina berths in Campbeltown

The MV Pentalina catamaran carried out berthing trials in Campbeltown last weekend. Photograph: Steve Byrne.
The MV Pentalina catamaran carried out berthing trials in Campbeltown last weekend. Photograph: Steve Byrne.

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Ferry spotters welcomed a new visitor to Campbeltown Loch last weekend when the MV Pentalina catamaran sailed into town.

The 70m-long Pentland Ferries vessel, based in the Orkneys, is currently undergoing berthing trials at terminals along the west coast as Transport Scotland looks to solve a growing headache over the lack of resilience in CalMac’s ageing ferry fleet.

A contract is expected to be signed by the end of next week which could see the vessel in service by July 28.

It is likely the ferry would initially be used to provide additional cover on Arran’s Ardrossan-Brodick route while the MV Isle of Arran services the Campbeltown route, but this is still to be finalised. She would also be available in the event of breakdowns.

The catamaran, which is currently not in service, left Kirkwall on Orkney last Friday and travelled down the west coast over the weekend, arriving in Campbeltown on Sunday before making the short crossing to Arran.

The boat then visited Oban and Craignure on Mull on her way back north.

Robbie Drummond, managing director of CalMac, said: ‘CalMac has said that it would welcome any new tonnage to the fleet, as long as it was safe and suitable for our routes.

‘We are currently working with Transport Scotland to investigate the feasibility of leasing the MV Pentalina catamaran from Pentland Ferries to provide additional resilience across the network.’

A Transport Scotland spokesman added: ‘CalMac will consult with relevant communities to discuss proposed timetables and deployment options and seek a commercial agreement with Pentland Ferries before deployment on the network.’

The Pentalina RoPax catamaran was purchased by Pentland Ferries in 2008 to operate between Gills Bay, Caithness, and St Margaret’s Hope, Orkney.

In normal times she can carry 350 passengers and 58 cars, but would be restricted to 183 passengers at the moment.

She was designed by naval architects Sea Transport Solutions of Australia and built in Cebu in the Philippines at a cost estimated between £10 and £15 million.

She was replaced by the MV Alfred on the Orkney route in November 2019.