CalMac’s current six-year deal expires next autumn, but it is understood competitive tendering for the next one has been put off because of delays to ministers announcing the results of their ferries review, with the final part due by the end of the year.
The interim contract will run from autumn 2013 to 2016.
The Scottish Government-owned firm won the current contract after the other two shortlisted bidders pulled out.
Transport minister Keith Brown also today confirmed CalMac’s Clyde and Hebridean network would not be split up, which had been listed as an option in the review.
He said: “The interim three-year contract with CalMac will allow the necessary detailed preparation work required to finalise the scope of the new contract to be completed.
“This work includes consideration of the expansion of the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service to include some services currently being delivered by local authorities as outlined in our draft ferries plan.
“This will also allow scope for further discussion with the [European] Commission around the potential for raising the six-year maximum contract length currently specified by the Commission.”