A second-hand ferry has been purchased from Norway to help bolster CalMac’s fleet on the west coast.
The MV Utne was secured from Norwegian shipping firm Norled in a £9 million deal announced this week by Transport Scotland.
Earmarked for the Oban-Mull route, the seven-year-old vessel can accommodate 195 passengers and 34 cars.
Communities in Skye and the Western Isles will also benefit as the move will free up other vessels which can be deployed elsewhere on the network.
However this week the chairman of CalMac’s community board warned the purchase was by no means a panacea for the problems which have plagued the ageing fleet over the past few months, causing major problems for businesses and communities.
It is understood the MV Coruisk, which was taken off the Mallaig-Armadale route a few years ago to service Mull, will redeploy to resume service on Mallaig-Armadale, the route she was built for.
That will leave the Lord of the Isles free to do additional services to South Uist as it currently covers Uist as well as Mallaig-Armadale.
MV Utne will transfer to Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited at the end of October, before undergoing modification work to allow it to enter service.
The works are expected to be completed by early 2022.
Campaigners on the Sleat Transport Forum, together with colleagues in Mallaig and Lochaber, said they were pleased to hear the Coruisk would be returning, and likely to share duties on the route with the MV Loch Fyne.
In a statement the group said: “The return of the Coruisk will restore long lost confidence on the route, so badly disrupted since 2016.”
Lewis-based Angus Campbell, chairman of CalMac’s community board, told the Free Press: “It’s certainly a welcome first step but it cannot be seen as the answer to the continuing issues of reliability which will only get worse for the ageing fleet.
“That is why we must do this in conjunction with other tonnage coming in, both new build and any other second-hand vessels they can find.
“It’s important that CalMac and Transport Scotland are actively showing that they are researching and bringing other tonnage in, in order to avoid the huge disruptions we have seen across the network in the past months.”
Article by JACKIE MACKENZIE