FERRY operators NorthLink have rescheduled their maintenance programme for the three ships they use to serve the northern isles so that new stabilisers can be fitted.
NorthLink already had to replace faulty stabilisers on Hrossey in 2006 and Hamnavoe last year, but now these ferries and Hjaltland will be fitted with a new design produced by the manufacturer Mitsubishi.
As a result the company’s vessel survey programme has been put back by two weeks. Instead of starting on 30 January, Hamnavoe will be in dry dock from 14 to 28 February, Hrossey from 7 to 22 March, and Hjaltland from 11 to 24 April.
The company apologised for any inconvenience and said 39 passengers whose sailing plans have been affected by the changes have had their trips rescheduled.
Shetland will have to put up with just one vessel serving the isles during the refit programme, as the Hjaltland will cover the Pentland Firth route while the Hamnavoe is out of service.
The company said it was making sure the northbound sailing from Aberdeen to Lerwick on 1 March is retained to tie in with the Shetland schools’ mid term break.
NorthLink are also maintaining their popular “weekend break” sailings, by having southbound sailings from Shetland on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and northbound trips on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
During this period NorthLink’s two freight vessels will modify their schedule to allow up to 12 passengers to travel on off days, while maintaining a regular freight service. The new freighter Shield is expected to start operating within the next month.
A NorthLink spokesman said the company was “content” with the way the stabiliser issue had been resolved by the manufacturer.