Pentalina ferry grounding: Suspension of sailings extended to six weeks pending ongoing repairs – Pentland Ferries
The resumption of ferry sailings on an Orkney-Caithness route has been extended for a third time while repairs continue on Pentalina which ran aground five weeks ago, The Scotsman has learned.
Pentland Ferries is expected to announce on Monday that services will not re-start between St Margaret’s Hope and Gills Bay until at least Monday June 12, more than six weeks after the incident in which 60 passengers were evacuated by lifeboat. The catamaran is being repaired at a yard in Birkenhead in Merseyside.
A week after the grounding off St Margaret’s Hope on April 29, the operator announced that sailings would continue to be suspended until at least May 21, then on May 16 that was extended until May 26.
On May 25, the suspension was continued until June 2, with Pentland Ferries announcing on June 1: “We are pleased to report that repairs to the MV Pentalina are underway and a timeline for the vessel's expected return will be released in the coming days.”
A Pentland Ferries spokesperson told The Scotsman on Sunday: “We are doing everything we can to get the ferry back into service as soon as possible, but we are at the mercy of inspectors and getting the work done, with spares to be sourced.
"I can confirm that bookings have been cancelled up to and including June 11. All passengers booked to travel have been informed.”
No details of the damage caused by the grounding or the repairs needed have been released.
Traffic has been switched to NorthLink’s parallel route between Stromness and Scrabster, with the Serco-run operator adding a third Sunday return sailing until June 24 and a fourth Friday, Saturday and Monday return sailing until June 30 to cope with the additional demand.
The UK Department for Transport’s marine accident investigation branch (MAIB) is investigating the grounding, which happened after Pentalina suffered a “sudden mechanical failure”, according to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). The incident happened 11 days after the MCA had issued a safety certificate for the ferry to carry passengers following refit work in Belfast.
Smoke was detected in Pentalina’s engine room before it grounded shortly before reaching dock at St Margaret’s Hope, while there was also a “minor ingress of water” according to Pentland Ferries.
The MAIB is also still investigating the grounding of Alfred, Pentland Ferries’ other vessel, which normally serves the route, in Orkney last July. Alfred has been deployed by CalMac on a nine-month charter to help plug gaps on its west coast network while its own ferries are out of action, and is currently on the main Arran route between Ardrossan and Brodick.
Pentalina had previously been largely laid up over the last four years.
Orkney Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: “This is obviously disappointing news. Thankfully, Serco NorthLink have been able to increase sailings to help cope with the passenger and freight capacity issues across the Pentland Firth over recent weeks.
"Nevertheless, hopefully MV Pentalina can return to service in the near future at what is the busiest time of the year."
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