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Faroe seeks renewed air link with isles

Faroe minister for trade and industry Johan Dahl

A RENEWED air link between Shetland and Faroe is more likely than a return of the ferry Norröna, according to the island group’s trade and industry minister.

Johan Dahl’s comments come ahead of a meeting on Wednesday in London at the Danish embassy with Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell as part of Faroe’s flag day celebrations.

Bell said that it was “perverse” that he had to travel to the UK capital to meet with representatives of Shetland’s northern neighbours.

He also expressed continued exasperation that Shetland is seeing no return on its £4.2 million investment in the Norröna, which has not called at Lerwick for several years.

“We are a new council and Faroe has a new government and the two islands have not spoken for some considerable time, so we feel it’s worth exploring any options to re-establish a physical link,” Bell said.

“If we can’t get the link back even just for the summer season then we will have to look seriously at our investment. 

The Smyril Line desk at Lerwick's Holmsgarth ferry terminal closed in 2006 and is unlikely to reopen any time soon, according to the Faroese.

The fact that I have to travel to London to have this discussion because it would cost almost £3,000 to get to Torshavn is in itself perverse.” 

Speaking on Tuesday evening, Dahl said he had invited the convener to London for a general meeting to discuss ways in which the two island groups could cooperate, including on tourism and telecommunications.

He doubted the new private investors in Norröna owners Smyril Line would be interested in adding Lerwick to the ferry’s summer schedule.

However he remained keen for a direct air connection to be reinstated. Faroese operator Atlantic Atlantic Airways stopped flying into Sumburgh en route between Torshavn and Stansted in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008.

“I think we should try to see if there is any chance to look into an air link between our islands maybe during the summer time,” Dahl said. 

“I think it could be one of the ways for us to join forces again and see what we could do together. It would be quite interesting to look into a once or twice a week service. 

“But I don’t think at the present time there will be any specific moves with Smyril Line, though you never know what the future will see.”

Dahl will also be meeting with Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil and Oil & Gas UK chief executive Malcolm Webb.

In September 2011 discussions took place about reopening the Atlantic Airways connection with the northern isles after an approach was made by Orkney Islands Council.

A Faroese delegation will be visiting Orkney next week when the subject is likely to come up for discussion once again.

Joannes Hanse, the Faroe government’s representative in Loondon, stressed prior to Wednesday’s meeting that there were “currently no direct plans to re-establish an air link” between Faroe and the northern isles.