The expensive PFI contract for the Northern Isles Ferries is to end as our three Northlink passenger ferries are to be purchased outright by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) with loan funding from the Scottish Government.
The PFI contract was made during the Labour/LibDem coalition Scottish Government and as Transport Minister was agreed to by Shetland LibDem MSP Tavish Scott. It has been costing the taxpayer £millions and bringing it to an end is a significant step forward.
Serco Northlink have also been given an extension to their contract for running the Northern Isles Ferries to 31st October 2019.
Stuart Garrett, Serco’s Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said
“We are pleased to have been awarded this contract extension and we will be working closely with the Scottish Government and CMAL as the ownership of the passenger vessels is transferred.”
Kevin Hobbs, chief executive, CMAL said:
“The purchase of the three vessels marks a significant investment in Scotland’s maritime transport infrastructure and strengthens the long-term resilience of services.
“These vessels were built specifically for the Orkney and Shetland routes and their position in Scottish waters is now secure, protecting lifeline ferry services for the islands.”
Humza Yousaf as an Islands Minister in the Scottish Government has made a real difference to ferry provision in Orkney and Shetland.
“This agreement to buy the three passenger vessels serving the Northern Isles is an excellent piece of business for the Scottish Government.
“Not only does it secure the future of the three vessels that had previously been leased, but it will also deliver savings to the public purse in the longer term.
“Our ferry services are iconic transport links that play a vital role for our island economies. Making sure they continue to support the communities they serve, as well as delivering best value for taxpayer’s money, will always remain at the heart of our ferry operations.”
Local MSPs have also commented.
Maree Todd MSP , SNP said:
“Our ferries are a lifeline service for folk living in the Northern Isles and play a very important role in the local economy. The deal announced today makes good economic sense, the money that is saved on leasing will be invested back into the service.”
The move was also welcomed by David Stewart MSP, Labour. He said:
“I welcome this news as these ferries were leased from the Royal Bank of Scotland.
“The introduction of RET on this route should see an increase in vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The fact that these vessels are new should prevent reliability problems and problems associated with dry docking as we have seen in the Western Isles as a result of Cal Mac sweating the assets on the fleet.
“The public are paying for the vessels and the service and to ensure we get value for money the service should be brought into public ownership without delay to ensure the investment is made in the vessels, infrastructure and workforce and not lining the pockets of Serco shareholders
“ However, I would like to know what the Government plans for replacement of the inter islands ferries which are much much older and are in need of replacement.”
The Inter Islands Ferries are run by Orkney Ferries for Orkney Islands Council. OIC was awarded extra funding by the Scottish Government this year of £5.5million towards the costs of running the inter islands ferries.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame