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Transport / Around one quarter of ferry services posts were vacant at end of June

The Whalsay ferry Linga. Photo: Shetland News

THERE were 35 full-time equivalent (FTE) posts vacant in Shetland Islands Council’s ferry operations department at the end of June.

New figures show that this amounted to around one quarter of budgeted FTE posts in ferry operations.

Meanwhile the council is expecting to spend £539,000 this financial year on agency ferry staff.

A report to councillors on the SIC’s environment and transport committee said there are currently six agency staff employed within the fleet, covering Officer Of The Watch (OOW) positions on the Unst, Fetlar and Bressay services.

A management/union working group has been formed to investigate options to improve recruitment and retention rates.

At the moment there are a number of ferry vacancies actively being recruited to, including mate and engineer roles.

Across the whole infrastructure directorate there were 70 vacant FTE posts at the end of the first quarter of the current financial year, representing 17 per cent of what was budgeted for.

The report to councillors said the “significant number” of vacant posts was down to delays in getting jobs reconfigured and reviewed to meet current requirements, and as well as recruitment challenges.

This financial year the council is looking to the ‘vacancy factor’ to balance budgets.

At this stage the projected infrastructure year-end position is an overall overspend of £422,000, but all council departments are continuing to look for savings.

One large projected overspend, amounting to £238,000, is down to higher than expected inflation on electricity costs.

The report to councillors also highlighted how the cost of ferry fuel is below budget so far this year – with the average being 54p per litre. The budget was for 85p per litre.

Meanwhile Monday’s meeting of the environment and transport committee heard that officers approved a spend of £183,000 on servicing works for the life raft systems on the LingaDaggri and Dagalien.

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The council had also approved £100,000 on a new Mitsubishi engine for the Linga.

Projects with a cost of more than £10,000 usually go out to competitive tendering, but exceptions can be granted.

In this case there is only one UK-based service agent for the three vessels’ marine evacuation systems, and the new engine for the Linga will only be supplied through a specific local dealership.

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