No bookings are available until May 22, while uncertainty remains as to where and when sister ship MV Alfred will set sail while moored in Ayr Harbour.
Ministers approved the nine-month charter of the MV Alfred as an “emergency” vessel to try to ease the effect of the ferry fiasco on the nation at a cost of £1m a month.
Pentland Ferries have been using MV Pentalina or MV Alfred to sail across the Pentland Firth from Gills Bay in Caithness to St Margaret’s Hope in the Orkney Islands.
On Friday, Pentland Ferries said problems found after berthing tests mean the ship cannot yet enter service.
While trials to test MV Alfred in certain West Coast ports have been completed, CalMac said “there are no details of a confirmed deployment yet.”
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And Pentland Ferries said problems found after berthing tests mean the ship cannot yet enter service.
The ferry company has been performing a hydraulic systems service.
Pentland Ferries have now canceled all trips from Gills Bay in Caithness to St Margaret’s Hope in the Orkney Islands in the wake of the ongoing problems up to and including May 21.
The company said the decision was made with “regret” and that all customers are being contacted.
Investigations continue to be conducted by the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch and the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency is ongoing.
The firm said: “We are grateful for the many expressions of concern and support following the grounding of MV Pentalina.
“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. We are doing everything we can to minimize the disruption and will share more updates when we can.”
Smoke was detected in the engine room of the MV Pentalina on 29 April before it came to ground near the island village of St Margaret’s Hope, prompting the evacuation of 60 passengers, including three children and a baby.
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Two weeks ago, the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency (MCA) granted MV Pentalina, whose use was being considered by CalMac, a Temporary Passenger Ship Safety Certificate (PSSC), allowing it to carry passengers and vehicles.
It came amid a series of breakdowns of ferries controlled by the port owner and Scottish government-backed ship, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, and operated by Scottish government-owned CalMac, while two lifeboats that were long delayed and that were being built by shipyard sister company Ferguson Marine remain incomplete with delays. more than five years and the costs quadruple.
Ferguson Marine’s previous owner, tycoon Jim McColl, who rescued the yard when it went bankrupt in 2014, blamed repeated design changes by CMAL, which owns and buys ferries, for problems building boats for operator CalMac, which is also public property. CMAL has blamed the shipyard firm.
Jamie Halcro Johnston, the shadow of the Scottish conservatives business The minister said: “This delay will be disappointing news for both Orcadians and visitors who make a vital contribution to the islands’ economy.
“I know Pentland Ferries will work hard to get their service back up and running as soon as possible. But while the grounding of Pentalina may have been due to mechanical failure, it was only used because the regular ship on the route, the MV Alfred, was has lent to CalMac to fill the gaps in its aging fleet on the West Coast.
“The failure of the SNP government to deliver new ships is a betrayal of our island communities that continues to have a devastating impact. Yet despite inexcusable delays and many millions of wasted public money, they are no closer to resolve this national scandal.”
Ministers confirmed that there is a possibility for MV Alfred to return to Orkney, although they say there is no contractual obligation.
MV Alfred was due to join the fleet from 18 April, but was delayed as Pentland Ferries had previous problems with MV Pentalina, meaning they had to retain the ship.
But it has been further delayed.
Ferry operator NorthLink has added an extra service to its Sunday schedule following the grounding of the Pentalina last weekend. Every Sunday from May 7 to June 25, Northlink will make an additional return crossing between Stromness in Orkney and Scrabster on the mainland.
Neither CalMac nor Pentland Ferries have commented on the possibility of MV Alfred being retired, although user groups are known to have been told that the Scottish government-owned ferry operator has exclusive use of the ship for the duration of the charter.
MV Alfred was due to complete berthing trials from last Tuesday at Campbeltown and Troon. She has already been to Ullapool, Lochmaddy and Port Askaig.
MV Alfred, which is at the center of an accident investigation dating back to the summer of last year, is chartered by Pentland Ferries, which will operate the services on behalf of CalMac.
Concerns have been raised about the ship’s cost, with critics calling it a “panic decision”.
Video: MV Pentalina undergoing berthing trials in Oban in 2021 when it was being considered as a support vessel.
Pentland Ferries staff, who will operate the services on behalf of Scottish government-owned CalMac, bought MV Alfred for £14m in 2019 to operate between Caithness and Orkney.
MV Alfred was built in Vietnam and seats 430 passengers and 98 cars, or 54 cars and 12 articulated vehicles/coaches.