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Tuesday 23 July 2024
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Transport / Ferry crewing issues explained

FERRY bosses have given more detail about the crewing issues which have affected services in the North Isles over the last week.

The Yell Sound ferry service was single vessel for much of last week due to staff shortages, while crew sickness has reduced the service on Bluemull Sound this week.

Shetland Islands Council’s ferry and airport operations manager Andrew Inkster said the service has been affected recently by losing some agency workers.

Regarding Yell Sound, he said there were two vacant mate posts which were covered by agency workers.

However, “the agency mate got a job nearer his home and did not return,” Inkster said.

“Unfortunately, members of our own crew who would have been able to cover were off sick and no other members of crew were willing to come in on overtime to cover – overtime is not mandatory,” he added.

Whilst the council initially expected this week to be single vessel on Yell Sound, two agency mates stepped in to do two split shifts to keep the service at full strength.

There is also some good news on the recruitment front – a permanent mate started this week, and the council is awaiting confirmation from another candidate if he is accepting the other vacant post.

Andrew Inkster. Photo: Shetland News

“We also have two engineers sick on Yell Sound this week – our own engineers have stepped in to cover those shifts,” Inkster added.

He explained that on Bluemull Sound, which is single vessel for three days this week, there is not enough cover after four people went off sick.

Thrown into the mix as well is a vacant mate post.

Meanwhile in Fetlar an agency worker had been covering a vacant mate post which the council is struggling to fill.

However, the worker got another job on the mainland near his home so did not return for shifts last week.

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This left the council in a position where it was unable to crew the Geira.

“Due to sickness the normal relief cover for this position was not available therefore a marine superintendent had to go to Fetlar and cover this to keep the Geira in service last week,” Inkster said.

He added that there is a “misconception” that the council can just deploy someone from within the ferries workforce to provide cover on a vessel.

“They have to be suitably qualified and hold all the valid certification,” Inkster said.

“They then have to go through a period of familiarisation on that particular vessel to ensure the service we are providing operates safely.”

Meanwhile inter-island ferry services have been heavily affected by the windy weather today.

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