Northern Isles MSPs seek assurances over future freight capacity


Northern Isles MSPs, Liam McArthur and Beatrice Wishart, have today (Friday) written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport seeking assurances that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland have in place sufficient contingency to allow Orkney and Shetland’s freight needs to be met over the coming months.

Northern Isles MSPs, Liam McArthur and Beatrice Wishart, have today (Friday) written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport seeking assurances that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland have in place sufficient contingency to allow Orkney and Shetland’s freight needs to be met over the coming months.

This was in response to Transport Scotland's confirmation this week that a short-term charter has been agreed for the MV Arrow to provide additional services on the Stornoway-Ullapool ferry route operated by CalMac.

The Northern Isles MSPs raised concerns that the MV Arrow charter could have "a knock-on impact” on Northern Isles' producers if additional freight capacity were needed later in the year, as has been the case in the past to deal with peak livestock movements.  

Mr McArthur and Ms Wishart also reminded the Cabinet Secretary that the "issue of freight capacity has been an ongoing issue" adding "there is a case for augmenting the freight capacity more generally on these routes to enable our islands to fulfil their economic potential."

 

Commenting, Mr McArthur, Orkney's MSP said:

"As we approach peak season for the movement of livestock, farmers and indeed other key sectors of our local economy will need to have confidence that the necessary freight capacity is available to meet demand.

"In that context, news of CalMac’s charter of the MV Arrow may well be causing concern. There is already limited freight tonnage available to lease, so this arrangement could yet have a knock-on impact on Northlink's ability to provide the freight service our farmers and other businesses require.

"The Minister and Transport Scotland must, therefore, offer reassurance that contingency plans are in place to meet the freight needs of key sectors in our local economy. I look forward to receiving confirmation that such plans are in place and that discussions with the main stakeholders will be ongoing over the weeks ahead”.

 

Ms Wishart, Shetland's MSP added:

"Future freight tonnage capacity needs to be addressed. But the last thing we need now is any concern about short term capacity.

"I hope the Cabinet Secretary can reassure islanders that contingency plans are in place. Our local economies need no further knocks."

 

Transport Scotland's announcement can be found here.

 

The text of the letter to the Cabinet Secretary is as follows:

"Dear Michael

Following the announcement earlier this week that CalMac has entered into a short-term charter of the MV Arrow to provide additional services on the Stornoway-Ullapool route, we write to seek clarification about the potential implications for freight services on the Northern Isles routes.
As you will be aware, in the past the MV Arrow has provided additional freight capacity on the Northern Isles routes at periods of peak demand. This has traditionally been required, for example, towards the end of the summer which sees an increased movement of livestock from the isles to the Scottish Mainland. Demand during this period has previously required the short-term contracting of additional freight vessels to the existing capacity.
It is already the case that securing such additional freight capacity has become more difficult over recent times, with less readily available tonnage to lease in the market. There will be understandable concern, therefore, in the communities we represent that CalMac’s charter of the MV Arrow may have a knock-on impact on the ability of Northern Isles' producers to export at a critical time in the year.
The issue of freight capacity has been an ongoing issue for the Northern Isles. The exports of fresh seafood, livestock and other goods are an essential part of the Northern Isles ferry contract and, of course, the wider economy of Orkney and Shetland. We believe there is a case for augmenting the freight capacity more generally on these routes to enable our islands to fulfil their economic potential.
However, at this stage, we seek your assurance that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland have in place sufficient contingency to allow Orkney and Shetland’s freight needs to be met over the coming months. It would be helpful to understand what those contingencies are and what discussions are taking place with key sectors and stakeholders to ensure needs are being met.  
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Kind regards
Liam McArthur
MSP for Orkney Islands
Beatrice Wishart

MSP for Shetland Islands"


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