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Transport / Orkney ferry company not considering Shetland sailings

Pentland Ferries' former passenger ferry the Pentalina.

AN ORKNEY ferry company which previously floated the idea of sailings between Caithness and Shetland says it is not considering introducing trips to the isles in peak periods.

Pentland Ferries’ Caithness-Shetland idea was last raised publicly in 2017, but it never took off.

The issue of capacity on the existing NorthLink ferry service between Aberdeen and Shetland and Orkney has been an ever-present for years, but it has been brought back into focus this year.

Last week photos emerged on social media of people sleeping in public corridors due to a lack of cabin space as cancelled flights meant the Lerwick to Aberdeen sailing was nearly full.

Some on social media have questioned if Pentland Ferries running extra sailings between Shetland and the mainland could be a solution.

However, a spokesperson for the company said establishing a summer service to Shetland is not under consideration.

It is a private company, running sailings between Caithness and South Ronaldsay in Orkney, while the Northern Isles ferry service – contracted to Serco NorthLink – is subsidised by the Scottish Government.

Last week Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Emma Roddick conceded the service was at a “breaking point”, while Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael called for transport officials to meet the Shetland public.

The idea of summer sailings between Shetland and Caithness was largely well received in 2017, with one local haulage firm supporting the proposal.

Pentland Ferries managing director Andrew Banks suggested at the time that the idea was an option Transport Scotland could have looked into when it considered the next Northern Isles ferry contract.

However, that contract was ultimately awarded in 2020 with no changes to its routes.

And Banks admitted it was unlikely to happen any time soon due to the limited prospect of the company receiving financial support from the government, which would be needed to make it viable.