The Scottish Government has asked Caledonian MacBrayne to look for a suitable vessel to run a ferry service between South Uist and Mallaig.
CalMac operates ferry services on the Clyde and Hebridean routes
The route was not included in the tender specification awarded to the government-owned operator in September.
The present service sails on the longer route between Oban and South Uist.
The ferry operator has been asked by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson to provide him with a report on the possibility before Christmas.
Western Isles Council's chair of transportation Donald Manford said the Scottish Government had asked CalMac "to search for a vessel which is suitable to operate a Lochboisdale to Mallaig service".
Out to tender
Mr Manford said: "As it is clear that CalMac is actively seeking a suitable vessel, this can be seen as a clear message that the government certainly wish to take forward this route."
There is currently no commitment to charter or purchase a ferry.
Islanders and local businesses have long campaigned for a direct service between Lochboisdale and the west coast port.
They claim it would create a much need economic boost and help the tourism and fish-farming sectors.
The shorter run would take three hours compared to a voyage almost double than that on the present Lochboisdale to Oban trip.
The previous Holyrood administration included the Mallaig route as an option when the bundle of Clyde and Hebridean ferry services went out to tender last year.