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Transport / Deductions applied to Serco NorthLink after late dry dock returns

NorthLink passenger ferry Hjaltland berthing at Holmsgarth. Photo: Shetland News

TRANSPORT Scotland has confirmed that “deductions” were applied to the operator of the Northern Isles ferry service after two of its passenger vessels were late in returning from drydock, leading to cancellations.

Both NorthLink’s Hjaltland and Hrossey vessels were both late in returning from scheduled maintenance in February and March respectively.

For the Hjaltland poor weather was a contributing factor, while an essential component seized during rudder work on the Hrossey in dry dock.

There were a small number of cancellations as a result, inconveniencing many travellers at the time.

Under the terms of the Northern Isles ferry service contract, which is currently held by Serco, the operator can be given deductions in grant funding when the service is affected.

The contract – which currently runs from 2020 to 2028, at a value of around £345 million – is awarded by Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland.

One area where deductions can be made is in reliability, such as when a sailing does not commence, or punctuality.

For services to and from Aberdeen the deduction for reliability is 100 per cent of the average grant per sailing.

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland confirmed to Shetland News deductions were made, but the agency was not able to provide any more details.

“Performance deductions are applied under the NIFS3 contract, where applicable, when sailings are disrupted,” they said.

“Following a review of the circumstances of the February and March incidents deductions were applied, in accordance with the Performance Regime in Schedule 13.”

A spokesperson for Serco NorthLink acknowledged that deductions had been applied.

Meanwhile the NorthLink freight service has been reduced to one vessel in recent weeks after the Helliar went into dry dock to fix an issue ahead of the summer season.

This affected the availability of supplies at Tesco’s Lerwick supermarket.

However, the Helliar is now back in service after returning from dry dock in recent days.

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