Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney
Ferries – OIC and SIC make joint call to Government
11 January 2012

Orkney Islands Council and Shetland Islands Council have made a joint call to the Scottish Government to provide a replacement vessel which fully meets the requirements of both communities during NorthLink’s dry dock period.

The Convenor of OIC and Leader of SIC, together with other senior Councillors from both Councils, agreed during a telephone conference call that a stand-in vessel with the same capabilities as NorthLink’s three main ferries is needed during the nine-week refit period.

They also agreed that responsibility for finding a suitable vessel – and for fully funding its charter – lies with the Scottish Government.

SIC Leader, Josie Simpson said: “For both Orkney and Shetland these are lifeline services in every sense of the word.

“For Shetland, a reliable connection with Aberdeen is essential for the economic well-being of our fishing and seafood industries and for our wider community. We will be badly affected if the current two-vessel operation is reduced to just a single ferry during the refit period.

“We urge the Government to find a solution that meets the needs of both Orkney and Shetland as a matter of urgency.”

Transport Minister Keith Brown has discussed the possibility that the CalMac ferry, Hebridean Isles, could be chartered to stand in on the Pentland Firth when the Hamnavoe, which operates between Stromness and Scrabster, is in dry dock.  He has also discussed the possibility that SIC could contribute to the cost of the charter.

OIC Convenor, Councillor Stephen Hagan said: “This is totally unacceptable to us in Orkney.

“From past experience we know the Hebridean Isles is not a suitable vessel to operate a reliable lifeline service on the Pentland Firth in the adverse weather conditions that can be expected at that time of the year.

“Responsibility for providing a suitable vessel for the refit period must lie with the Scottish Government. The two Councils have written a joint letter to the Minister setting out our position on this and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with him.”