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New operator sought for ferry route

The Nordic Sea in Kirkwall.
(The Orcadian/Craig Taylor)

Orkney Islands Council is tendering for a new operator to run one of Orkney’s shortest regular ferry services, on behalf of Orkney Ferries.

The service, from Pierowall in Westray to Papa Westray, is usually operated by a North Isles crew on behalf of Orkney Ferries — but OIC has confirmed the service provider, Malcolm Brown from Westray is due to retire, resulting in a market test for a new operator.

The mv Nordic Sea is expected to become the vessel for this service later this year — but has been undergoing a near £500,000 refit in Buckie since January, to prepare her for UK certification as a passenger ferry. The vessel was purchased for close to £1million to replace the mv Golden Mariana.

However, the procurement process for the new operator is open to the mv Nordic Sea not being used at all.

Jim Buck, OIC harbour master and head of marine services and transportation, said: “We expect that most potential operators would opt to use the Nordic Sea on the Westray to Papa Westray service.

“But, to keep the procurement process as open as possible, and make sure we are getting best value, we are also happy to hear from potential operators with an interest in using a suitable vessel of their own on the route.

“We think this is unlikely, but were that to happen, the Nordic Sea is a very capable vessel, and would be used to support services elsewhere in the network as a core part of the overall Orkney Ferries’ fleet.”

Full story in this week’s The Orcadian.