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Transport / Ferry maintenance bill nears £1.8 million

The Whalsay ferry Linga berthing at Vidlin. Photo: SIC

SHETLAND Islands Council (SIC) spent nearly £1.8 million in the last financial year on work to extend the life of its inter-island ferry fleet.

The most expensive piece of work was overhauling the propulsion thruster on the Yell ferry Dagalien, which cost £192,412.

It comes against a backdrop of continuing negotiations between the SIC and the Scottish Government on ferry funding.

Other costly maintenance in 2018/19 included replacing sections of life rafts and slides on evacuation systems on the DaggriDagalien and Linga.

Councillors retrospectively approved the total £1,758,997 spend at Monday’s policy and resources committee meeting.

Members were told that a business case for the ongoing ferry life extension works programme for 2018/19 had not been formally presented, leading to the retrospective approval.

SIC leader Steven Coutts said the local authority is “certainly giving it our all” when it comes to ongoing negotiations with the Scottish Government over securing more funding for its ferries.

The council received £5 million from the government for this financial year for inter-island ferries, which was nearly £3 million less than requested – but that is for running the ferries, not repairing them.

Coutts said SIC councillors and officials met islands minister Paul Wheelhouse on Thursday as the local authority continued to make its case to the government for more money, with further talks planned for June.

A ferry vessel and terminal replacement programme has been identified by the council, and it is subject to ongoing dialogue with the government over how it could be funded.

But Westside councillor Theo Smith said he was not too optimistic that further discussions with the government will bear fruit.

“I have every confidence in our officials in negotiations, however I have less confidence in the response that we get from the Scottish Government,” he said.

The life extension works in 2018/19 spanned across the Geira, Hendra, Bigga, Snolda, Leirna, Linga, Filla, Fivla and Daggri.

Over £180,00 was spent on Whalsay ferry Hendra on steelwork inspection and repairs to the likes of funnels, the car deck, casings, pipework and weather tight hatches.

Similar inspections and repairs were carried out on the Bressay ferry Leirna, with the cost coming in at £150,000.

Yell ferry Daggri, which was recently taken out of action following a fire in its engine room, had the most pieces of work undertaken, from a thruster overhaul and parts for its engines to a replacement electronic chart system.

The ferry, as well as the Dagalien, also saw a sprinkler-style firefighting system upgraded to a standby pump.

Repairs were also carried out to a fire sprinkler system on the Geira and Leirna, while on the Linga the fire detection system was replaced as the equipment was no longer supported by the manufacturer, with no spare parts available.