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Coronavirus / NorthLink chops service as a result of Covid-19

Two of NorthLink's three passenger ferries. Photo Will RodgerNorthLink's ferries will sail on alternate days from each of Aberdeen and Lerwick. Photo Will Rodger.

NORTHLINK is to cut its lifeline ferry sailings in half as of this weekend.

According to the company’s managing director Stuart Garrett, NorthLink will basically adopt its dry dock timetable with sailings from Lerwick to Aberdeen on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from Aberdeen to Lerwick on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

The reduction in sailings is a result of travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, with people being told not to travel unless for essential business.

Garett said that last week there had been an average of 17 passengers northbound and only 10 southbound on each sailing.

He said that NorthLink would continue to run both its freight boats, delivering a service in tandem with the passenger ferries.

There would also be an additional “intra-island” sailing, with one of the freight boats following an Aberdeen – Kirkwall – Lerwick – Aberdeen route, bringing sailings to and fro Lerwick to five a week..

He said that halving sailings would allow NorthLink to “flip” crews between vessels if absences in the officially forecast region of 30 to 40 per cent develop. At present the company’s health related absences are six per cent, not enough to affect operations.

According to a “temporary timetable” on the Serco NorthLink website, the new arrangements are in place till at least 3 May, but will be subject to review.

Garrett said: “The wellbeing of our passengers and staff is always our top priority and since the outset of Covid-19 we have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure their health and safety.

“We will continually review the changing situation and shape our response in line with the most recent guidance from Government and health officials.

“It’s for this reason that we are now introducing a temporary revised timetable to support essential lifeline services while responding to the reduction in passenger footfall.”

He said that NorthLink had been in close cooperation with freight companies and other transport interests and its new time table reflected these priorities.