BY KEITH MACKENZIE
Caledonian MacBrayne’s new flagship hybrid ferry to serve the island of Raasay broke down during sea trials last week — on the same day company and council dignitaries were on Skye to open a new £2 million harbour facility at Sconser.
The MV ‘Hallaig’, which will serve the Raasay-Sconser route, was formally handed over to CalMac last Thursday. However, the operators blamed a “propulsion error” for last Friday’s mishap which saw the new ship being towed to safety by the vessel currently plying the route — the much smaller ‘Loch Striven’.
Free Press reader Caroline Fraser, who captured the moment on camera, said: “We were staying in the house near the terminal, and just heard a crash — which we think was an attempt to drop anchor. The next thing the ferry started drifting towards the bay, and had to be towed out.”
A CalMac spokesman said: “There was an issue with the propulsion systems on Friday after the pier opening which we’re still investigating.
“The ship was handed over to us late on Thursday and we are now going through a series of trials, induction and familiarisation exercises with the crews before she can formally enter service. This is expected to take two to three weeks.”
Dubbed the maritime version of the Toyota Prius, the hybrid ferry uses an electrical propulsion system fed by both diesel power and a battery that can be charged while the ferry docks overnight. The company estimate the new vessel, which has a speed of nine knots and can carry 150 passengers and 23 cars, will cut emissions by some 20 per cent.
The vessel was launched on the Clyde last December, following a £20 million investment by the Scottish Government.
Pupils from Raasay Primary School were guests of honour at last Friday’s opening of the new terminal at Sconser. The opening of the terminal completes the work on the Sconser to Raasay route and complements the £12 million terminal constructed at Churchton Bay on Raasay, completed in 2010.
As well as lengthening and widening the slipway at Sconser, a new car park, marshalling area and waiting-room with toilets have been constructed.