The present MV Hebrides revived a traditional name on the "Uig triangle" and is the third vessel of the name in the CalMac fleet over the years. She carries the bell of the first Hebrides (an 1898 steamer) which also graced the second "Heb" (1964). The 1964 ship was MacBrayne's first car ferry and very much a favourite, which for twenty years, also sailed from Uig, Skye.
Following successful sea trials on the Clyde in early 2001, the Hebrides made her way round to Uig, Tarbert and Lochmaddy, where she conducted berthing trials at the three linkspans. Uig and Tarbert piers had to be specially extended to accommodate this new giant. On entry into service on 24 March 2001 she displaced the MV Hebridean Isles to Islay. Her service speed is 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph), which cuts the crossing times to around 100 minutes and allows three return trips per day.
There were no Sunday sailings to or from Tarbert, so the Hebrides concentrated on serving Lochmaddy on North Uist. The ratio of crossings is something like 2:1 in favour of North Uist. Having the MV Isle of Lewis at Stornoway (serving Lewis and Harris), and in 2003 the introduction of the new MV Loch Portain (making inter-island access easier) have encouraged this trend.
The Hebrides brought with her the highest level of passenger comfort ever seen in the fleet. Despite a passenger certificate for around 600, she never feels crowded. Only at peak times does she need to use her mezzanine car deck for extra cars. With a ship of this size on permanent station at Uig, future increases in demand can be met for many years.
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