Cruise Arrivals


Protests go unheard as Hamnavoe refit starts

MV Hamnavoe has started its two-week refit period, from Tuesday, January 8, until Sunday, January 21.

Ferry problems featured prominently in the headlines throughout 2023, and so the theme continues, it would seem, as we get into 2024.

Today, after protests from a community council, the local authority, and Orkney’s MSP, the mv Hamnavoe has begun its two week refit with no backup vessel covering the government-subsidised lifeline route in its absence.

Liam McArthur, MSP, has criticised the First Minister for not being able to provide assurances that the same situation won’t arise in future years.

While the Stromness-Scrabster vessel is away, NorthLink has said it will make additional daily calls north and southbound into Kirkwall on the Lerwick-Aberdeen service.

Transport Scotland has also said that the ferry operator will direct freight on to its freight vessels to ensure maximum capacity is available on the passenger vessels.

However, the extra sailings to Aberdeen have proved to be little consolation for those who represent the community.

On December 21, Orkney’s MSP questioned the First Minister Humza Yousaf about his government’s commitment to lifeline ferry services, in light of this situation.

During an exchange in First Ministers Questions, Mr McArthur highlighted that previous refit periods had seen temporary cover provided initially by ro-pax, and more recently freight vessels on the Stromness-Scrabster route.

On the lack of cover for the Hamnavoe, Mr McArthur asked: “What does the First Minister think this says about the Scottish Government’s commitment to lifeline ferry services and can he offer a guarantee to my constituents there will be no repeat of this abandonment in years to come?”

In response, Mr Yousaf accepted the importance of the route, but stopped short of offering any reassurance about provision during future re-fit periods.

“We take our obligations, of course, seriously to our island communities, and the budget is undoubtedly a demonstration of that,” the First Minister said.

“I am more than happy to have a discussion with the cabinet secretary, and for the cabinet secretary and the minister for transport to write to Liam McArthur about what options there are, potentially, around the Stromness to Scrabster route.

“I know it is an incredibly important lifeline route and, of course, any mitigations that can feasibly be put in place, we absolutely will put in place when the Hamnavoe goes for its two week refit.”

Commenting after the exchange, Orkney’s MSP said that, while mitigations will be put in place, “this demonstrates a complete failure by the Scottish Government to respect the lifeline nature of these services.”