Orkney’s MSP Mr McArthur has called on the Scottish Government to guarantee that Orkney will not be left short when the MV Hamnavoe goes off for planned maintenance in the new year.
Dry docking is expected to take place in January 2018, and Mr McArthur is seeking assurances that a suitable replacement vessel will be made available over that period.
Following a parliamentary response that offered no such assurances and gave little detail of what is planned and when, Mr McArthur has written to the Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP urging him to provide specific undertakings.
Commenting on developments, Mr McArthur said:
“Planned maintenance is an essential part of making sure that our lifeline ferry services sun smoothly. However, steps must be taken to ensure that adequate cover is provided.
“Back in 2013, we have had the situation where a freight vessel was brought in the operate the Stromness-Scrabster route for a fortnight. That cannot be allowed to happen again. Last year, the Isle of Lewis performed the role and people in Orkney would expect something similar again this time round.
“Unfortunately, in answer to my parliamentary question, the Transport Minister has offered no guarantees. While details may still need to be finalised, it is important that the public is made aware of the arrangements well in advance. In the meantime, Mr Yousaf must make clear that there will be no repeat of what happened in 2013.”
Note to editors
Please see Mr McArthur’s parliamentary question below alongside an answer from the Transport and Islands Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP.
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government when the refit period for the MV Hamnavoe will take place; how long it will last, and what plans are in place to provide cover on the Pentland Firth Route.
Answered by Humza Yousaf: The MV Hamnavoe, which operates from Scrabster to Stromness on the Pentland Firth is scheduled to undergo her period of scheduled unavailability due to a period of essential dry dock during the first quarter of 2018. The dates of the dry dock are not currently available and the associated plans to provide cover on the Pentland Firth have yet to be finalised by the operator, Serco NorthLink Ferries. (SNF)
The Public Service Contract between SNF and the Scottish Ministers requires that, during periods of Scheduled Unavailability and / or in the event of a Relief Event, the operator must use all reasonable endeavours to minimise the disruption to the services and provide reasonable notice and assistance to users of the services.