DISTILLERIES on Jura and Islay are operating “hand to mouth” due to the continued CalMac ferry disruption, the Scotch Whisky Association has said.

Only one ferry is currently operating on the route, providing three sailings on weekdays from Kennacraig on the mainland to the islands, due to delays in vessel servicing.

This is due to increase to four to six sailings, Monday to Friday, from next week.

The "world-famous whiskies" are promoted on CalMac's website as a reason to travel to the islands. Distilleries operating on the islands include Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Bowmore and Jura Whisky.

A number of CalMac’s vessels are currently out of action, with most of its ferries more than 30 years old and about half of its largest ships operating beyond their expected service life.

The National:

Fraser Grieve, Scotch Whisky Association deputy director of strategy, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme of the difficulties being faced.

He said: “CalMac is really struggling with vessels with quite a number out of action. That means that capacity is really constrained on the ferries that are available, having to really look at what they can carry.

“For our distilleries, that has become a real challenge, and we are having to operate hand to mouth, in terms of knowing if our goods can get off the island with timetables and capacity not confirmed until just a few days before sailings take place.

“In terms of distilleries, they require a constant supply of barley, of tankers to take the spirit off the island, so we’re looking at around 190 movements a week to and from Islay. It’s really important to sustain those deliveries to grow the economy on these islands.

“All distilleries are having to look at their options really carefully. It wouldn’t be a small decision to close a distillery due to the financial impact. It takes around five days to safely close down one.

READ MORE: CalMac: Ferry services cancelled due to engine fault

“It’s about that period that we’re getting any kind of confirmation that CalMac can take services and can take our fleet, so it really is operating on a hand to mouth basis at the moment, which is particularly challenging.”

His concerns come after one of CalMac’s largest ferries, the MV Loch Seaforth, developed engine control problems on Monday evening, causing cancellations on the Ullapool-Stornoway route.

CalMac has announced that sailings between Lochboisdale on South Uist and the mainland will be cancelled for several weeks from Sunday due to drydock delays and technical issues.

Four ferries to bolster the CalMac fleet are being built in Turkey, along with the Glen Sannox and the as-yet-unnamed hull 802, which have faced major delays and cost overruns during construction at the Scottish Government-owned Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow.

A CalMac spokeswoman said: “Given the unprecedented level of disruption the CalMac fleet is experiencing right now, due to extended dry dock and technical issues, we are doing our utmost to service our commercial customers on Islay.

"We are aware of the precarious position that the distilleries find themselves in, and are striving to meet distillery demands and transportation needs through the hauliers.”