THERE is fresh hope that the Norröna ferry might begin calling in the islands again after the Faroese government agreed to initiate fresh talks between operator Smyril Line and Shetland Islands Council.
Council convener Malcolm Bell said that when he met Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen at a function in London last month, the Faroese PM was “actually very positive about the chances of the Norröna making a comeback”.
The local authority invested some £4.2 million in the Norröna through the now defunct Shetland Development Trust to provide a regular sea connection to Scandinavia during the Morgan Goodlad era at Lerwick Town Hall.
It was left red-faced after Smyril Line decided to axe Lerwick from its ports of call in 2006 after sailing into financial difficulties – prompting much public anger about what many now view as a wasted investment.
But Bell said that Johannesen informed him at their meeting on 24 April that the Faroese government, which is a shareholder in Smyril, was in favour of restoring Shetland to its route “in some shape or form”.
“He [Johannesen] was very disappointed when they had to pull out of Shetland, but it was because the company was in really quite difficult circumstances. It would be akin to us [being in danger of] losing the Hrossey and the Hjaltland.
“They feel now they’re on a firmer footing, and would like to explore the possibility of Shetland being reintroduced.”
It is anticipated that a Shetland delegation will visit Faroe this summer with Smyril’s ferry link top of the agenda.
“It’s clearly not going to happen this year, probably not even next year, but it’s looking more positive than it has been for a while,” Bell told Shetland News.
“What we need to do is get the meetings with Smyril, then we’ll be in a better position to know whether it really is going to be possible or not.”
Bell added that a Faroe visit would also provide a useful opportunity to discuss cultural and sporting links, as well as the possibility of an air link, more fact-finding about its use of subsea tunnels and a conversation about broadband services.