Orkney Islands Council Leader James Stockan has voiced his concern that a freight ship will be standing in for the MV Hamnavoe during the ferry’s refit period.
The freight ship MV Helliar will take over on the Stromness to Scrabster route while the Hamnavoe is in dry dock from January 13-26.
Councillor Stockan said: “Once again we in Orkney are being treated as second class citizens.
“A freight ship can never be an adequate replacement on for a vessel of the capacity and quality of the Hamnavoe – and on a lifeline route as important as this.
“We have long argued for a replacement vessel which fully meets the requirements of our community during NorthLink’s dry dock period.
“The stand-in vessel needs to have very similar capabilities as the Hamnavoe – but we will be served instead by a freight ship with extremely limited passenger accommodation - 12 passengers as opposed to around 600 - and with no proper facilities for folk with disabilities. This is frustrating and deeply disappointing.”
The freight vessel is also significantly less able to operate in the stronger winter wind conditions likely to be be encountered in January. Without there being any suitable towage assistance in Stromness, additional service disruption is seen as inevitable.
Councillor Stockan added: “Responsibility for this lies firmly with the Scottish Government. We will be continuing to press our longstanding case for like-for-like replacement cover to be addressed when the new ferries contract for the Northern Isles is implemented.”