The ferry crisis reaches new depths
According to sources familiar with the events, the saga began on Friday afternoon when the Outer Hebrides, which currently operate freight, developed an electrical problem which, once resolved, required approval from the Marine and Coastguard Agency.
It took several hours to ensure that when the vessel reached Ullapool, carriers were told it would not be making the second return crossing from Stornoway because the working hour limits would be exceeded.
At one point it seemed that a compromise had been reached with the ferry making a single run from Stornoway to Ullapool. Contact was made with Ullapool to ensure that a berth would be available and it appeared that the delayed cargo would be moved.
However, by the time the Hebrides Islands reached Stornoway, this was not acceptable to CalMac, although it is not known where this decision was made, and the second freight trip was canceled in both directions.
This left about 14 articulated loads lying down overnight, including three containing farmed salmon and one containing shellfish. With no freight coming the other way, Stornoway supermarket shelves were empty of fresh produce.
Tensions escalated on Saturday morning when the Isle of Lewis failed to erode the backlog of freight traffic while taking not only all reserved cars and motorhomes, but the entire unlisted queue as well. reserved for ten vehicles.
Dr MacLeod – CalMac’s biggest customer – told The Gazette: “We are about ten or eleven artics down. This morning, we got nothing. These people are a law for themselves and the contempt we are treated with is due to the fact that there is a complete monopoly ”.
Loch Seaforth is expected to return on Monday after a six-week absence. However, it is certain that the pressure will continue for major reforms and an investigation of all the circumstances which have led to recent events.
The Comhairle nan Eilean Siar recently presented the Scottish Government with a list of the measures needed to bring ferry services back to some resemblance to normal. At the top of their list was the rental of the Pentalina to resolve the current crisis.