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Urgent need for replacement vessels highlighted

MV Eynhallow, just one of the aging vessels in the Orkney Ferries fleet.

Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, yesterday, Wednesday, again highlighted to the Scottish Government the urgent need for procurement of replacement vessels for Orkney’s internal ferry services.

During portfolio questions, Mr McArthur asked the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, if the government will agree a specific timeframe with Orkney Islands Council for the procurement of replacement vessels as part of their National Ferries Plan and overall review of ferry procurement.

In response, Mr Wheelhouse explained that the government will continue to have discussions with Orkney Islands Council on this matter, but admitted that their immediate focus is on developing the vessel replacement and deployment plan in the Clyde and Hebrides and supporting the workforce at Inverclyde.

Following the debate, Mr McArthur said: “It is disappointing that the Minister failed to provide any clear signal about the government’s willingness to help support the procurement of new vessels for Orkney’s lifeline internal ferry services.

“The government’s own National Ferries Plan back in 2013 was clear. It acknowledged that Orkney’s internal ferry services fell short of minimum standards in terms of cost, reliability, frequency and accessibility. Since then, little progress has been made.

“What has happened, however, is that the ferries operating these lifeline routes have got older, less reliable and more costly to run. Despite the best efforts of crews, we have seen increasing levels of disruption, including the ongoing problems with the MV Eynhallow. This situation is simply not sustainable and needs to be addressed.

“Scottish Government needs to agree a clear timetable for taking forward the procurement of replacement vessels so that communities in Orkney have the lifeline services they deserve. I will be following this up with the Minister.”

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