Troubled waters for Raasay’s new £20 million hybrid ferry

BY KEITH MACKENZIE
keith.mackenzie@whfp.co.uk

The troubled start for Caledonian’s MacBrayne’s new £20 million ferry for Raasay continued last Friday when the vessel suffered a second breakdown on her first week in service.

Having broken down on her first day in operation last Monday, MV ‘Hallaig’ had been back on the route a little over 24 hours when a further problem was detected.

This time the fault was blamed by operators on a “blown fuse”. It meant that on her last run of the day last Friday the ferry bumped the pier on Raasay, leaving some passengers with minor bruising.
Despite the early glitches a CalMac spokesman attempted to play down the problems.

“There was a very minor fault on Friday — a blown fuse — which was unconnected with the previous issue,” added the spokesman. “Neither fault has been major but we have to understand what happened so we can be sure it cannot happen again and that’s what takes the time, especially since we’re dealing with new technology in a new ship. Engineers have been working over the weekend to carry out further tests and are as confident as they can be that these issues have been resolved.

“On Friday, on her last run of the day, she was only a few minutes from arriving in Raasay and travelling at around two miles an hour as she eased into the berth when a gust of wind caught her and she came into contact with the pier. There is no question that the ship is not fit for purpose but, as previously stated, some teething problems are to be expected on any new ship as the technology and crew
bed in. Services have been maintained throughout.”

The previous fault  — attributed by CalMac to a “technical glitch with the propellor”  — was detected after the vessel had completed just two return runs on the short crossing between the island and Sconser on Skye. The vessel was also beset by difficulties during several weeks of sea trials. In early November, following a power outage blamed by officials on “a propulsion error”, the ‘Hallaig’ had to be towed to safety by the MV ‘Loch Striven’ — the much smaller ferry which has plied the route for several years. The ‘Loch Striven’ is currently acting as back-up on the route.

The ‘Hallaig’ is the world’s first sea-going “hybrid” ferry and uses an electrical propulsion system fed by both diesel power and batteries that can be charged while the ship docks overnight. The hybrid vessel is intended to cut carbon emissions and fuel consumption on the route by around 20 per cent.