MV Loch Portain

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MV Loch Portain Approaching Leverburgh, 9 May 2016.jpg
Approaching Leverburgh, Harris on 9 May 2016.
Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svgUnited Kingdom
Name: MV Loch Portain
Owner: Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited
Operator: Caledonian MacBrayne
Port of registry: Glasgow
Route: Berneray - Leverburgh (Sound of Harris)
Builder: Feniks, Gdańsk[1] and McTay Marine, Bromborough
Yard number: McTay 129
Launched: March 2003
Completed: May 2003
In service: 5 June 2003
Status: in service
General characteristics
Class and type: Ro-Ro vehicle ferry
Length: 49 m (161 ft)[1]
Beam: 14.4 m (47.2 ft)[1]
Draught: 1.5m
Propulsion: water-jet propulsion system
Speed: 10.5 knots
Capacity: 146 passengers and 34 cars
Crew: 5
Notes: [2][3]

MV Loch Portain is a Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited water-jet propulsion ro-ro car ferry, operated by Caledonian MacBrayne, built for the Sound of Harris crossing in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.


Soon after the Sound of Harris service started in 1996 using the new vessel MV Loch Bhrusda, it became apparent that a new vessel was required.[3] This was built, as another large variant on the successful Loch Class, by McTay Marine on the Mersey. The new ferry was named MV Loch Portain on 23 April 2003 and undertook sea trials, before arriving in North Uist on 1 June.[3]

During January and February 2016, Loch Portain was fitted with a passenger lift and 2 MES evacuation systems, 1 port and 1 starboard, whilst dry docking in Birkenhead.


MV Loch Portain's car deck provides space for up to 34 cars. Passenger accommodation, above the car deck, contains several internal seating areas, forward and aft external seating areas, toilets, information boards and a basic vending machine. Her bridge, above the passenger lounge, provides a grandstand view - essential on the tortuous Sound of Harris route.[3]

A lack of depth in the Sound of Harris led to the adoption of a water-jet propulsion system, rather than the Voith Schneider units of the other Loch Class ferries.[3]


MV Loch Portain was built for the Leverburgh (Harris) to Berneray (North Uist) route and has operated there since 2003. MV Loch Bhrusda had started the service in 1996, but could only carry 18 cars and soon proved inadequate.[4] Initially, the service connected Leverburgh with a slipway at Otternish on North Uist, until the Berneray Causeway opened in April 1999, when the ferry's southern terminus moved to a purpose-built slipway at the northern end of the causeway.[4]

The shallow Sound of Harris is full of islands, sandbacks and rocks, and the route followed by the ferry covers nine nautical miles in an hour.[4] From Leverburgh the ferry skirts the islets near the Harris coast before heading south to North Uist. Close to the island of Grodhaigh it takes a sharp right turn and heads nearly due west to the southern tip of Berneray.

Loch Portain carries twice as many cars as the Loch Bhrusda, and more passengers. The new ferry is more stable in heavier seas (being designed to sail in winds up to Force 7/8) and also significantly quieter than her predecessor. The route has proved far more popular than predicted and reservations are advised for vehicles. In Summer 2006, the service started to operate seven days per week, making it the first route to operate a Sunday service to the northern half of the Western Isles.[4]

In October 2015, Loch Portain "made contact" with the sea bed in the Sound of Harris, resulting in a short spell in dry dock undergoing repairs


  1. ^ a b c d "9274824". Miramar Ship Index.
  2. ^ "MV Loch Portain". CalMac. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "History - Loch Portain". Ships of Calmac. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d "Sound of Harris Ferry". Undiscovered Scotland. Retrieved 13 September 2009.

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