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Nordic Sea makes its inaugural journey

The Nordic Sea made her inaugural journey on the Papay to Westray route this morning, Friday, December 3.

The Nordic Sea made her inaugural journey on the Papay to Westray route this morning, Friday, December 3.

The training and familiarisation of the six crew – two crews of three – has concluded so the vessel will now begin in service on the North o’ the Galt route.

The vessel, which was built in 2012, arrived in Orkney from Norway in 2020 as a replacement for the near 50-year-old Golden Mariana. The Scottish Government via Transport Scotland have funded around half the £1.5 million costs.

The council’s head of marine services, transportation and harbour master, Jim Buck, is confident that the new 21m modern fibre glass vessel will have been worth the wait.

“We are delighted to be able to announce the start date for the Nordic Sea. The Golden Mariana has served the communities well, but it’s time now for a younger, more comfortable vessel to take over. At 21m, with a 5m beam, the Nordic Sea will be able to carry 47 passengers and is capable of running at between 14-17 knots, which is a little faster than the Golden Mariana. She has stabilisers installed to help with the motion and is a much more luxurious vessel for passengers and, very importantly, is fully accessible for those who require this.”

The ship has attracted plenty of speculation, after long periods of being tied up since being purchased in April 2020. COVID delayed a £500,000 refit programme, and further complicating matters has been the retirement of the previous skipper of the Golden Mariana and the longer-than-anticipated recruitment process for crew to serve on the Nordic Sea.

Mr Buck went on to explain why the process has taken longer than some had expected.

“It would appear to have taken a long time but actually in respect of the certification process when taking a vessel from one country to another it has actually been remarkably quick. She is the first vessel of her type to go through that process and with that comes inevitable hurdles that need to be overcome. The Nordic Sea had a series of modifications made to bring her up to the full UK Classification and Certification standard.

“She was built to a different specification so had to go through the required checks and balances to ensure we met the current specifications for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s current passenger vessel system.”

He is confident that she will be a favourable addition to the fleet.

“She is a really good sea keeping vessel with good properties designed with the right centre of height for that comfortable ride.”

Councillor David Dawson, chair of the board of Orkney Ferries, said: “I would like to recognise the efforts of the team here in Orkney for getting us to this stage, particularly given the challenges added in by the pandemic, but also for the patience of the people of Papay. We must not forget the faithful service of the Golden Mariana and crew who have served the communities well.

“From the information I have received from seagoing staff who have taken the Nordic Sea out in what could be described as ‘challenging conditions’, I have every confidence that the Papay community will not be disappointed in what is a first-class vessel.

“We are grateful for the support we’ve received from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to enable the purchase of the vessel and are looking forward to the inaugural journey.”