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Transport / Transport Scotland projecting to have new freight vessels ready within five years

TRANSPORT SCOTLAND is still hoping that new ‘freight plus’ vessels could be ready for the Northern Isles within five years.

That was the message from Tuesday’s meeting of the Shetland external transport forum held in Lerwick.

Transport Scotland’s head of ferries Chris Wilcock however reiterated that no Scottish Government funding has been identified for the vessels’ build.

A previous possible design of a freight plus vessel. Image: Transport Scotland

He said the government is an “extremely challenging funding position” at the moment.

But Wilcock said Transport Scotland continues to work in the background with ferry owners CMAL and Serco NorthLink to get the vessel design at a point where it is ready to go if funding becomes available.

The government agency is looking at replacements for the current NorthLink freight vessels Hildasay and Helliar.

Wilcock said transport officials are now “very much” working towards a freight plus design – a cargo ship with sizeable passenger capacity.

The hope is that these could help with capacity issues in pinch points.

VisitScotland’s Steve Mathieson asked if Transport Scotland is planning to keep the status quo until new freight ships come into service, or increasing the service through additional sailings, for example.

Daytime sailings have already been ruled out by operator Serco NorthLink due to logistical issues.

Wilcock added that Transport Scotland continues to look for additional second hand tonnage to add to the fleet.

Two previous attempts to do so have both failed.

Wilcock told Tuesday’s meeting that modelling had taken place for a new freight vessel in Holland, but these have resulted in the need for more design work to take place.

The meeting heard that there was now a hope to have a design ready for consideration in 2024.

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