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Linga halves passenger capacity

A SHETLAND inter island ferry is being restricted to half its normal passenger capacity until it is modified to meet safety regulations.

The Whalsay ferry Linga was launched in 2002 shortly after the new rules under the Stockholm Agreement were introduced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency following the 1994 Estonia disaster in which 852 people died.

On Thursday the MCA instructed the ferry’s owners Shetland Islands Council to restrict passengers to 50, down from its normal capacity of 95.

The move comes at a time when islanders on Whalsay are already complaining that their ferry service can not cope with demand.

However SIC ferry resources manager Colin Manson said that he had studied passenger traffic throughout last year and discovered there were only 52 sailings during which the number of passengers exceeded 50 and most of these were during the summer.

He said the modifications should be completed during the ferry’s next refit, scheduled in April.

The MCA is currently examining designs by a team of naval architects that would improve the Linga’s buoyancy in the engine room and at the stern to meet the new rules.