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Call to rule out freight ship use during refit

MV Helliar which has previously stood in for MV Hamnavoe during its refit period.

Assurances that a suitable vessel will be used to cover the forthcoming refit period for MV Hamnavoe has been sought.

Following the decision to use a freight vessel to cover the Stromness-Scrabster route during the last two refit periods, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has written to the Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, highlighting concerns that this arrangement fails to meet the needs of the local community or the standards for a lifeline ferry service.

Mr McArthur also reminded Mr Matheson of commitments made by his predecessor, Humza Yousaf, that the needs of the community would be put at the “forefront of all contractual decisions” in relation to cover during future refit periods — traditionally at the start of the year.

This follows the recent announcement of Serco Northlink as the preferred bidder for the new Northern Isles ferry contract.

Mr McArthur said: “In recent years, the arrangements for covering the MV Hamnavoe during the refit period have given rise to serious concerns.

“Using a freight vessel to cover the Stromness/Scrabster route falls short of what is acceptable. It neither meets the needs of the local community nor the standards people in Orkney have a right to expect from their lifeline service.

“I have raised these concerns with the First Minister and Transport Secretary in the past, highlighting the impact on constituents. I was given assurances that it would be addressed in the new contract.

“Given the announcement that Serco Northlink has been chosen as the preferred bidder, it is important that the Scottish Government now clarifies what the arrangements will be for the forthcoming refit period.

“The new contract needs to address the failings of the current contract and ensure that this lifeline route is served during the refit period by a vessel that is fit for purpose”.

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