The vessel purchased to replace the ageing ferry Golden Mariana has arrived in Orkney.
Orkney Islands Council decided last month (on March 3) to go ahead with the purchase of the Nordic Sea from its operators in Northern Norway.
The vessel, which was built in 2012, travelled across North Sea during the current spell of good weather and arrived in Kirkwall in the early hours of Friday morning (24 April).
A search for a replacement for the 47-year-old Golden Mariana, which operates between Westray and Papa Westray, had been underway for some time. Until late last year, a suitable vessel proved difficult to source.
It then became known that the Nordic Sea, which operates on a number of passenger routes in the far north of Norway, had become available.
Following visits and sea trials involving Orkney Marine Services and Orkney Ferries staff, the vessel was considered as a suitable replacement for the Golden Mariana.
As the Nordic Sea was operating under a Norwegian Passenger Certificate, it was known that a number of requirements would have to be met before she was considered ready for a UK passenger certificate.
With surveys now completed and a works list developed, the decision to complete the purchase was made and the vessel departed Bergen for Orkney on the morning of Thursday 23 April.
Following arrival, the vessel will be handed over to Orkney Islands Council, but due to Covid-19 restrictions and the need for some works to be carried out to bring her up to the full UK Classification and Certification, it will be a while yet before the residents of Papa Westray are able to benefit from their new passenger ferry.
Brian Archibald, Orkney Island’s Council Head of Marine Services, Transport and Engineering, said: “I am delighted that we have, at long last, been able to purchase a replacement for the long serving Golden Mariana.
“While it will be a while before we are fully ready to deploy the Nordic Sea, this is a significant step towards providing a vessel which will be so much more capable, comfortable and reliable than the Golden Mariana and, while we will miss the old vessel, her well deserved retirement is now long overdue.”
Councillor Andrew Drever, from the Board of Orkney Ferries, said: “I would like to recognise the efforts of the team here in Orkney for getting us to this stage, the help we have had from the Norwegian owners and the Danish shipbrokers and, of course, the patience of the people of Papa Westray.
“I would also like to recognise the support we’ve received from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, who have agreed to fund 50% of the project costs.
“These, once all works and costs are complete, will be in the region of £1.5 million and without their funding support, this first small step in the replacement of our ferry fleet would not have been possible.”