The 13-year-old MV Finlaggan, a Polish-built transit vehicle and passenger ferry for the fleet, has suffered an “ongoing technical problem” with its starboard main engine, which CalMac described as an “ongoing technical issue” and which requires further investigation.
The return of the ship, capable of carrying 550 passengers and 85 cars, meant MS Lord of the Isles was able to return to service South Uist, which was idle for most of June.
Traffic to and from Islay is again halted as the ship calls at Kennacraig on the Kintyre Peninsula for further surveys and repairs.
The loss of the vessel and the continued absence of the 38 year old MV Hebridean Isles has caused significant disruption and has resulted in the MV Lord of the Isles leaving South Uist for Islay.
The failure of South Uist ambulance services for most of June led to major protests on the island and ministers calling for CalMac to review the way ships are being deployed to deal with ferry shortages.
READ MORE: One of the busiest CalMac ferry services is closed for a week
Following the return of the MV Finlaggan, services to the beleaguered islanders on South Uist returned on Friday after being out of service for most of June.
South Uist islanders are said to have been “driven to despair” by the disruption, with ferry company CalMac halting departures from Lochboisdale to Mallaig on the mainland in early June.
MV Lord of the Isles, the ship operating the route, had been transferred to Islay due to repair problems elsewhere in the fleet.
The withdrawal of the Lord of the Isles sparked anger and protests, while at the same time there were growing concerns that services would again be suspended in South Uist due to difficulties with the aging fleet.
An estimated 500 residents, 200 cars, 40 vans and 20 lorries gathered at Lochboisdale – the port that connects South Uist to the mainland – in early June to protest the decision.
A representative of a ferry user group said: “It is incredible that the ferry has just completed the overhaul and yet it has already broken down. This isn’t even one of the oldest in the fleet.”
“We can only hope that a repair will be made quickly.”
The MS Hebridean Isles, which had been struggling since Boxing Day, was removed from CalMac’s line of fire on February 16 and the cargo service that supplied Arran with essential supplies from Troon was halted.
It was due to return to service on Islay in early June – but remains out of service.
This means MV Alfred, the Pentland Ferries chartered ship costing taxpayers £1million a month, will remain en route to the Isle of Arran alongside Mr Caledonian Isles until at least July 27.
Earlier buses were used to replace a ferry after problems with a bridge ramp meant services between Inverclyde and Argyll and Bute were suspended until Friday.
The problems first surfaced last Friday, prompting an immediate closure of the Gourock to Dunoon route, one of the busiest in Scotland.
This means there is now a replacement bus service to and from Gourock Ferry Terminal and the passenger waiting room at Dunoon Pier using a Western Ferries ferry. Argyll and Bute Council has arranged for civil engineers and technical officials to conduct surveys, surveys and repairs to the connecting bridge.