Cruise Arrivals


‘Grave risk’ to lifeline ferry services

Orkney Ferries is losing £600,000 of income every quarter as the company battles the severe economic impact of COVID-19.

The board of Orkney Ferries has renewed an appeal to the Scottish Government for emergency funding to offset the severe impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the company.

Board chair, Councillor David Dawson, said the company — which provides Orkney’s inter-island ferry service — is struggling to survive a major drop in income since lockdown measures were first imposed.

In early August, the board appealed to the government — in an open letter sent to  Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity — for financial support similar to that provided for other transport companies.

“We’re extremely disappointed that there has been no response to date,” Councillor Dawson said.

“Since March, our ferries have run with their full complement of crew — but carrying a drastically reduced number of passengers because of social distancing requirements.

“We are losing over £600,000 in income every quarter. That poses a grave risk to the company and the literally lifeline ferry service Orkney’s most vulnerable communities depend on for food, medicine, fuel and other vital supplies.”

Councillor Dawson said other ferry operators, including NorthLink Ferries, CalMac and Pentland Ferries, had received emergency support from the government, as had the operators of the Glasgow Subway and Edinburgh Trams.

“The Cairngorm Funicular Railway, which has been closed with structural faults since 2018, has recently been pledged £20 million in public funding.

“It beggars belief that such a staggering sum should be awarded for what is essentially a tourist attraction — when there has been no emergency support for the vital service Orkney Ferries delivers for our North and South Isles.

“I find this inexplicable and it causes me to question how seriously the Scottish Government is committed to sustaining island communities.

“The losses the company is making are unsustainable. We are appealing once more to the Cabinet Secretary to come to our aid at this critical time.”

In response, a spokesman for Transport Scotland, the national transport agency, said Orkney Islands Council had received over £16million in ferry funding over the last three years.

They had also provided £750,000 towards replacing the mv Golden Mariana.

Additional funding of £11.5million for local authority ferry funding services has been allocated within the 2020/21 budget — an increase on the previous year, bringing the total support to £32.5million since 2017.

The spokesman added: “Transport Scotland has been engaging regularly with local authority ferry operators throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been agreed that local authority ferry funding pressures as a result of COVID-19 should be considered as part of a wider ask from local authorities on COVID-19-related cost impacts.”