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NorthLink introduces shuttle service

Unprecedented levels of demand as a result of flying restrictions caused by the Icelandic volcanic eruption has led to NorthLink Ferries introducing an emergency ‘shuttle’ service between Aberdeen and Shetland

The service, with a 10-hour journey time and a two-hour turnaround will begin on Wednesday morning (April 21) when NorthLink’s 600-berth ro-ro ferry Hrossey will depart Lerwick for Aberdeen at 9am.

She is scheduled to arrive in Aberdeen at 7pm and will then depart for Lerwick at 9pm with a scheduled arrival time of 7am on Thursday.

It is intended that the Hrossey will maintain this schedule (Aberdeen to Lerwick overnight and Lerwick to Aberdeen during the day) until the current ‘no-fly’ situation ends.

The extreme pressure on the company’s services this week has been exacerbated by the fact that the present emergency has coincided with the annual dry-dock refit in Birkenhead of the Hjaltland which normally operates on the Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland route.

Until the current emergency situation resolves, the ‘Aberdeen boat’ will not make an Orkney call. NorthLink apologises to customers for this inconvenience.

A spokesman said: “During this period of uncertainty, with ash cloud conditions changing almost on an hourly basis, NorthLink would also like to highlight the fact that timetables across its network may be subject to further change but the company will do all it can to keep customers informed of the latest position.

“In light of this, the company also wishes it to be known that the Scottish Government is currently examining the possibility of taking Hamnavoe off-station on the Stromness to Scrabster Pentland Firth crossing so that she can carry out repatriation duties of UK citizens currently stuck in Norway.”

The company’s chief executive Bill Davidson said: “Since the no-fly restrictions were imposed last week we’ve experienced a massive increase in demand for places on our ships.

“Throughout this period we have been in regular contact with the Scottish Government’s emergency response teams and it has been decided that we must bring in this shuttle service to assist islanders and others who need to travel between Shetland and the Scottish mainland.

“For days now our customer service centre has been inundated with calls from people who wish to travel with us. Indeed, the ships are often close to maximum capacity. For this reason we and the Scottish Government have decided that the daily return trip 10-hour service should be introduced with immediate effect.

“Unfortunately, introduction of the new timetable will have the effect of inconveniencing those passengers who were already booked on timetabled services but these are unprecedented times and we are having to take unprecedented steps to keep Shetland and Shetlanders on the move.”