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Transport / Covid restrictions continue to hamper Fair Isle ferry service

THE FAIR Isle ferry looks set to remain off limits for passengers for some time yet as a result of its layout and size and requirements for social distancing.

The Good Shepherd has only been taking supplies recently as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

A report presented to Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee on Tuesday from infrastructure director John Smith conceded it may be difficult to identify a “Covid-19 safe way” for passengers to return under current guidance.

Fair Isle ferry the Good Shepherd, which is 31 years old and will soon need replacing.Fair Isle ferry the Good Shepherd.

Smith told councillors “The fundamentals of the boat and the passage do not change…it’s not quite clear how we are going to find a solution to that one.”

He said one of the main issues was access to passenger accommodation, and that people struggling with seasickness may need assistance in poor weather.

South mainland member George Smith said: “I think all that highlights is that we absolutely need a solution to the Good Shepherd.

“We need a replacement vessel.”

Funding for a replacement Good Shepherd was already being sought from the Scottish Government by the council but leader Steven Coutts said its submission has so far been met with “silence”.

The Good Shepherd – which sails from Grutness Pier in the south mainland – can take 12 passengers, with the journey to Fair Isle lasting around two and a half hours.

Its usual timetable is for services on Tuesday and Saturday, based on bookings.

Fair Isle residents are still able to use the plane as an essential travel link, with people asked to wear face coverings.

South mainland member Robbie McGregor, who represents the SNP, said he felt there could be an opportunity amid the downturn in the shipping sector to charter a replacement vessel.

Councillors were also told that contactless payment is now likely to be rolled out on council ferries later this year.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021