Transport / Cargo trip a success – but vessel deemed ‘unsuitable’ for Northern Isles service

The Bore Bay in Lerwick on Saturday. Photo: Northwards

TRANSPORT Scotland says a freight vessel which docked in Lerwick at the weekend on a trip around Europe was previously deemed not suitable to provide extra cover on the NorthLink service.

The Bore Bay was an unusual sight at the ro-ro pier at Holmsgarth on Saturday, stopping off with equipment for the Viking Energy wind farm after a trip from Rotterdam before heading to Bergen.

The special sailing was for haulage company Northwards, provided through its parent company Sea Cargo AS of Norway.

There is a hope that the success of the operation could open doors for the vessel to ease the often stretched freight capacity of Shetland’s external ferry links in the future.

However, Northwards said the Bore Bay had been turned down last year for a possible extra charter on the Aberdeen-Lerwick route – apparently “as the ship was deemed unsuitable for berthing in Aberdeen”.

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland, the government agency which contracts Serco NorthLink to run the Northern Isles passenger and freight services, said the vessel was deemed unsuitable for a number of reasons.


“We understand that the operator [Serco NorthLink] was approached at short notice with an indication that the vessel may be available,” they said.

“However, following their assessment they determined it would not be suitable for their needs for a number of reasons.

“It should also be noted that, working closely with its customers, NorthLink Ferries was able to manage the busy livestock season with the existing fleet.

“They will continue to work with stakeholders and keep options for this year under review.

“We continue to work closely with CMAL [the Scottish Government company which owns ferries] and our ferry operators to help address the challenges facing our ferry network and we have always been clear that we would explore any appropriate charter or purchase of second hand tonnage if available.

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“We would of course need to consider the suitability of the vessel for the routes and services which we operate and the terms and affordability of any such arrangement in full.“

Northwards commercial director Neil Leslie said the ship arrived at Lerwick at 12 noon on Saturday, with cargo handled in four hours.

An invitation was put out for people to use the cargo service, but it only ended up carrying Viking Energy wind farm equipment – the main reason why the service stopped in Shetland in the first place.

There were no other goods that could make it in time for the sailing, but Northwards’ customers expressed interest in the service and would be keen to use similar sailings if they were planned for the future.

Leslie said: “The whole operation went very smoothly and undoubtedly opens up the possibility of operating similar sailings in the future.


“The vessel is perfectly suited to the Aberdeen – Lerwick route and would have eased the extreme pressure at peak times. We understand that the offer was rejected out of hand.

“[Saturday’s] operation has, we believe, demonstrated the technical viability of the vessel, its ability to dock at Holmsgarth, and its capacity to carry freight to and from Shetland, something for which the Shetland business community has been crying out for over many years.

“We very much hope that Transport Scotland will note the success of the operation and, in particular, reconsider its options ready for the next livestock season.”

It is understood that Transport Scotland has no direct role in the chartering of vessels.

However, a representative for NorthLink Ferries said the company had no comment to make.

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