Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has written to Cabinet Secretaries Paul Wheelhouse and Michael Mathieson highlighting the recent interruption in the ferry service to the Isle of Barra.
Inclement weather and poor fleet resilience has meant that Barra has gone ten days with only one ferry run to Oban. The two main vessels suitable for the Oban – Castlebay route are in dry dock at the same time, with MV Isle of Lewis’s overhaul facing delays. Meanwhile, the two relief vessels, MV Hebridean Isles and MV Isle of Arran, have been struggling to cope with the exposed waters of the Sea of the Hebrides during a period of rough weather.
This has resulted in shops in Barra attempting to stock food via Eriskay, with perishables arriving days old. Other businesses, including seafood processors, are unable to ship fresh produce off the island on time. MV Hebrides was redeployed from the Tarbert – Uig route to Barra over the weekend to provide relief.
Alasdair Allan MSP has asked the Scottish Government what can be done to improve fleet resilience. He commented:
“This is an exasperating situation for the people and businesses of Barra. Barra’s seafood industry has had lorries stranded even before they encounter similar problems further south.
“The lack of resilience within the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Network is having real economic and human consequences. This situation is mirrored by last year, which saw several 5-day periods with no mainland ferry sailings.
“I have asked the Scottish Government what they can do to consider chartering an additional vessels or other measures that might relieve the current strain on the fleet. While Barra is worst effected at present, other ports such as Lochboisdale, and now Tarbert, are suffering from the lack of suitable vessels.”