Local News

The Nordic Sea Saga: Over £20million for a New Pier

Readers of The Orkney News will be aware of the problems faced since the purchase of The Nordic Sea by Orkney Islands Council with substantial funding from the Scottish Government which was to serve as a ferry between Westray and Papa Westray.

The Nordic Sea in April 2022, in Stromness, now tied up in Kirkwall
The Nordic Sea in April 2022, in Stromness

At the meeting of the Council’s Harbour Authority Sub-committee 22nd August 2023, the challenges and continuing expense of actually getting this ferry into running a regular route appeared in financial reports to the councillors .

It has now become an eye-watering expense of the council’s own making.

In response to questions from North Isles Councillor Mellissa Thomson , Head of Marine Services and Transportation and Harbour Master, Jim Buck, informed the councillors that there would be no immediate change to improvements at the pier at Papa Westray for the berthing of the Nordic Sea. The need for improvements and repairs at both Papa Westray and Pierowall, Westray, are described in the report as being ‘urgent’.

Engineers assessing the berthing requirements have told Jim Buck that it would be better just to have a completely new pier with an estimated cost of between £20 and £25million

For readers who are not acquainted with the Nordic Sea Saga here’s a reminder. The Nordic Sea was purchased by the council in March 2020 and sailed from its operators in Norway, arriving in Orkney on 24th of April 2020. The Scottish Government contributed half of the initial costs of the vessel which were stated to be £1.5million.

From the get go there were problems and additional costs incurred. By December 2021, Jim Buck was confident that it was all worth the wait. At the time he explained:

“It would appear to have taken a long time but actually in respect of the certification process when taking a vessel from one country to another it has actually been remarkably quick. She is the first vessel of her type to go through that process and with that comes inevitable hurdles that need to be overcome. The Nordic Sea had a series of modifications made to bring her up to the full UK Classification and Certification standard.

“She was built to a different specification so had to go through the required checks and balances to ensure we met the current specifications for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s current passenger vessel system. She is a really good sea keeping vessel with good properties designed with the right centre of height for that comfortable ride.”

Meanwhile islanders in Papa Westray and Westray have an indefinite wait for the ‘urgent’ improvements and repairs to the islands’ piers if the Nordic Sea is ever to fulfil the promises made when she was first purchased – now over 3 years ago. A future meeting has been promised to take take place between Marine Services officials and the community of Papa Westray.

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Fiona Grahame

2 replies »

  1. Visitors are encouraged to go to the outer-isles to add to their ‘visitor experience’ and also help to boost the economy of those isles. But – how are they meant to get there?

    And those that would like to do so are likely to be the ‘right kind’ of visitors – but the focus, as always, is on the short-term visitors from the Liners.

    See ‘A Tale of Two Parts’…


    And – while I’m at it….

    Contradictions – Part 7……..

    Mr Stockan
    In his wisdom
    States that Orkney tourism
    Needs Cruise Liners
    Carrying thousands
    Polluting and disrupting.

    And yet
    He also supports the Faray turbines
    Visible for miles
    From ferries traveling to the Isles
    Bringing visitors
    To see wildlife

    Including seals?


    BB – December 2022.

  2. PS

    Putting together this non-sense about the ferries, with the utterly bogus postal drone……


    Begs the question – why not improve the ferries – which already carry the post? Someone, somewhere is making money from this non-sense – and that money is not being used to serve the best interests of the people of Orkney.

    Would you trust your post to a little box, being blown about in the Orkney winds? The ‘planes get grounded often enough – and they are much more solid.

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