Orkney Islands Council is set to purchase a vessel to replace the aging ferry MV Golden Mariana.
The 48-year-old Golden Mariana usually operates between Westray and Papa Westray and, until this week, had been standing in for the MV Graemsay, which has an engine problem that has now been fixed.
A search for a replacement vessel has been underway for many years.
Following today’s decision, the council will move ahead with the purchase of a much younger vessel, the Nordic Sea, which has been operating an inter-island ferry service in the Bodø region of northern Norway, above the Arctic Circle.
The purchase will be made with partial funding support from the Scottish Government.
Like the Golden Mariana, the Nordic Sea can carry around 40 passengers. It will require UK classification and certification and the complex process involved in this is well underway.
Graham Sinclair, Chair of the Development and Infrastructure Committee, said: “This appears to be an excellent vessel and will be a significant improvement on the Mariana in terms of her age, reliability, comfort and accessibility for passengers.
“While I am pleased that the Scottish Government is part funding the purchase, this must only be seen as a first step.
“Our entire fleet of ferries is ageing and needs to be replaced – but with no sign so far of any further support for this from the Government.
“I find it astonishing that the Government will fully fund ferry services in Argyll and Bute over the year ahead – and pay for a replacement ferry – while Orkney continues to be treated unfairly.
“Unlike the Government, this council is fully committed to supporting Orkney’s most remote and vulnerable communities – as this purchase clearly shows.”