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Transport / Freight boats with passenger cabins key consideration for transport officials

The freighter Hildasay is one of two cargo vessels due to be replaced this decade. Photo: Austin Taylor

A ‘FREIGHT plus’ style of cargo boat with passenger cabins is the “option we are moving towards” when it comes to replacing existing NorthLink vessels, according to a Transport Scotland official.

The topic of replacing the two existing NorthLink freight vessels Hildasay and Hellier was raised again during a meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum last week.

Transport Scotland is considering as a preferred option a model of boat which could offer space for up to 200 people in a bid to alleviate capacity pinch points on the passenger ferries.

It comes amid repeated concern of the capacity of the freight service between Lerwick and Aberdeen.

The meeting heard that simulations will be carried out with the Aberdeen Harbour Board using vessel design configurations, as the proposed ship has a longer length and greater width than existing NorthLink boats.

A presentation to members of the forum highlighted the need to ensure the proposed vessels are able to safely enter the harbour, with simulations set to throw up a range of wind, wave and limited visibility conditions.

The simulations are likely to be carried out at Glasgow’s Riverside campus and if they are successful the project will move to formal stakeholder engagement whilst a tender package is drawn up.

Transport Scotland’s Chris Wilcock said the aim is to get to the finalisation of design in the next 18 to 24 months.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to this,” he added.

Meanwhile NorthLink Ferries’ managing director Stuart Garrett said advanced sales on the service are up 43 per cent on 2019.

Most of the advanced sales are for between April and August.