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NorthLink: No changes on Shetland route

The passenger ferry Hamnavoe is expected to be out of service for four weeks - Photo: ShetNews

SERCO NorthLink has insisted that the breakdown of their Pentland Firth vessel Hamnavoe will have no impact on the Shetland to Aberdeen route.

The northern isles lifeline operator said on Monday that the Hamnavoe would be out of service for up to four weeks after it emerged that the crankshaft on the starboard engine was not repairable.

The vessel limped into Stromness harbour on Thursday last week and has been out of service since.

In the past, one of the two vessels serving the Shetland to Aberdeen route was standing in for periods the Hamnavoe was out of service.

Islanders were furious when in winter of 2012, Shetland was without a second passenger vessel for two months as all three vessels underwent their 10 year refit and the Hjaltland had to cover the Pentland Firth route while the Hamnavoe was away.

As a result, a clause has been written into the new ferry contract that neither the Hjaltland nor the Hrossey would again be used to cover for the Hamnavoe during refit time.

On Monday, NorthLink’s managing director Stuart Garrett categorically stated: “We do not currently anticipate alterations to the Aberdeen – Kirkwall – Lerwick sailings.”

The company added: “Initial internal and independent assessments of the MV Hamnavoe, is that the crankshaft on the starboard engine is irreparable.

“It will be up to four weeks before the Hamnavoe is back in service on the Pentland Firth route.

“We are currently stripping the engine and developing a detailed project plan and timeline for the repair. We will publish this within the next 48 hours.

“Our commercial team and independent brokers are looking at the availability of temporary replacement vessels, as a matter of urgency.

“In the meantime we are working with our passengers to arrange alternative options for this lifeline service in order to minimise disruption to their journey.”

Meanwhile, politicians in Orkney are demanding urgent answers from Serco and the Scottish government about how they intend to ensure continuity of service on this lifeline route. 

“When the contract was signed last year, people in Orkney were promised an end to disruption during re-fit periods.   Less clear was what would happen in the event of an unplanned loss of one of the vessels.

“However, Serco and the Scottish government have accepted that this is a ‘lifeline’ service.  The Stromness-Scrabster route was explicitly written into the contract, after Scottish Ministers backed down from an earlier decision not to specify the service.

“Quite rightly, therefore, the Orkney community will expect Serco and the Scottish government to deliver on its promise and to do so without delay. 

“I have left both Serco and the transport minister in no doubt about what is expected, and will take the opportunity when parliament returns tomorrow to maintain the pressure on the government regarding this vital issue.”

And OIC convener Steven Heddle is quoted by the Orcadian as saying: “The council and our community now expect the government and Serco NorthLink to fulfil that pledge.

“An extended break in service on the Stromness-Scrabster route must not be allowed to develop. As far as the council is concerned, that would be totally unacceptable.”