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Pentalina Returns to Serve Orkney

Pentalina run by Pentland Ferries (K Armet)

The MV Pentalina will be back serving the route from St Margaret’s Hope, Orkney, to Gills Bay on the Scottish mainland from the 18th of April.

The Pentland Ferries catamaran will be brought back into service for 9 months whilst MV Alfred has been chartered to the CalMac fleet on the West coast.

The Scottish Government is funding the deal to the tune of £9million which will cover berthing dues, fuel, commercial charter rate and other costs.

Commenting about the deal for the company Managing director of Pentland Ferries, Helen Inkster, said:

“I can confirm that we have signed an agreement with CalMac Ferries for the charter of MV Alfred. During the charter period the MV Pentalina will operate on the Pentland Firth route. This move ensures we continue to provide a reliable service to Orkney, while assisting CalMac to offer resilience over their West Coast services.

“We look forward to welcoming the Pentalina back to service as the Alfred departs for the West Coast where she will complete berthing trials to assess her suitability for CalMac services. On completion of successful trials, the MV Alfred will be based in Campbeltown until deployed by CalMac Ferries.

“We remain entirely committed to serving the community of Orkney, and operating the MV Pentalina on the route, in the short term, is a prudent move allowing us to protect, develop and invest in the future of the Orkney service.

“We look forward to working with CalMac on the next stage of the charter and see both vessels in operation providing reliable, dynamic and efficient services to Island communities on the North and West of Scotland.”

CalMac is delighted with the addition to their fleet although MV Alfred will only be able to serve some of the ports on their routes. It will have to undergo berthing trials from 18th of April before going into service.

Robbie Drummond, CalMac’s Chief Executive, said:

“We are delighted that MV Alfred will be joining the CalMac fleet, her addition will provide much-needed resilience.   

“While her design means that she can only operate to some ports, having this extra vessel will help support the rest of the fleet during times of annual maintenance or disruption.”

MV Alfred Image credit: Kenny Armet

The MV Alfred was purpose built for the Pentland Firth route. It carries 98 cars, or 54 cars with 12 articulated vehicles/coaches and 430 passengers.

The MV Pentalina can carry 70 cars, or 26 cars with 8 articulated vehicles/coaches and 237 passengers.

The Minister for Transport in the Scottish Government is Jenny Gilruth. She said:

“I’m pleased to announce an agreement has been reached with Pentland Ferries to charter the MV Alfred, bringing improved resilience to the Clyde and Hebrides ferry network. This is a key step in our longer term commitment to retain a fully crewed vessel in the fleet for this purpose, as set out in the draft islands Connectivity Plan. 

“The Scottish Government is committed to improving the lifeline ferry fleet and better meeting the needs of island communities.

“Since May 2021, we have bought and deployed an additional vessel in the MV Loch Frisa, chartered the MV Arrow and now the MV Alfred to provide additional capacity, commissioned four new vessels and progressed investment to improve key ports and harbours.”

The decision will leave Orkney with much less capacity just as the very busy tourist season kicks off.

Serco Northlink runs what is termed ‘the lifeline’ service to Orkney. Transport Scotland has frozen the fares on that route till September 2023. Bookings are already very busy.

The Hamnavoe in Stromness with the Pentalina next to her

Northlink’s MV Hamnavoe which runs from Stromness, Orkney to Scrabster on the Scottish Mainland can carry 95 cars and 600 passengers. It is not owned by Serco Northlink but is leased to them by CMAL (Caledonian Maritime Assets). CMAL also leases 32 vessels to CalMac and 4 more to Serco Northlink (in addition to the Hamnavoe).

CMAL is wholly owned by the Scottish Government with Scottish Ministers the sole shareholders.

Archived story: Future Ferries: It’s Not Plain Sailing

Fiona Grahame

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