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Sturgeon says freight concern is an ‘important issue’

Arrow. Photo: Ian Leask
A previous photo of the Arrow.

A CALL has been made in the Scottish Parliament for the Northern Isles to be served by a third freight vessel on an ongoing basis.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described it as an “important issue” and said she would pass the matter onto transport secretary Michael Matheson.

The topic was raised by Orkney MSP Liam McArthur on Thursday after a third freight vessel was temporarily leased by Serco NorthLink last week to cope with demand, particularly from Shetland’s seafood sector.

Over £2 million worth of fresh fish was left overnight in Lerwick on Monday and Tuesday last week because there was not enough space on the passenger vessels departing for Aberdeen.

The MV Arrow was chartered for the next couple of weeks during what is a busy time for livestock shipping in Orkney.

Speaking at the Scottish Parliament, McArthur asked if Sturgeon accepted that the route needs a third freight vessel on an ongoing basis and for Matheson to “seriously and urgently” look at the issue.

He said a “full-blown crisis” for Shetland’s seafood sector was only avoided at the last minute thanks to the Arrow being deployed.

McArthur also said freight capacity should also be looked at on the west coast of Scotland.

Serco NorthLink usually operates two passenger and two freight vessels on behalf of the Scottish Government on routes between Lerwick, Kirkwall and Aberdeen.