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Better Ships Could Save £10m on Northern Isles Route, Says Napier Report

25th January 2006

A report by Napier University's Maritime Research Group has branded the ferries plying the sailing routes between Aberdeen and the Northern Isles as "two of the most inefficient and environmentally-unfriendly ships built in recent years".

The criticism is contained in the report, Future Options for Northern Isles Ferry Services, commissioned by the Northern Maritime Corridor (NMC), to establish if improvements can be made to the existing service.

In the report Dr Alf Baird, Head of the Maritime Research Group at Napier Transport Research Institute, recommends that the existing four ships - operated by Northlink Ferries - two passenger/car ships and two cargo ships - should be replaced by two larger car/passenger/cargo ships.

Dr Alf Baird says the two existing passenger/car vessels - Hjaltland and Hrossey, - only have single freight decks and extremely high fuel consumption rates relative to payload, in part due to a high speed requirement on a short hull length; this effectively means the ships are up to five times less efficient than longer ships of their class.

Dr Baird said: "If these four ships were replaced by two larger ships, savings of around �10m a year could be made - that's �60m for each six-year contract. At the same time overall service capacity would be significantly increased." However, a new contract for ferry operation is due to be awarded in April and the new operator will continue to use the current ships.

"Two new larger ships would offer four-and-a-half times more freight capacity than the existing ships, but with the same power, they would be more fuel efficient while being capable of the same speeds. Surprisingly, the study found that these larger standardised ferries would cost more or less the same as the far smaller custom-built Northlink vessels. Longer ships with far greater payload would also improve passenger comfort at sea."

The move to larger ships however, would require port operations to be moved from Aberdeen to Peterhead as Aberdeen harbour is too small to accommodate the larger vessels.

Dr Baird said: "The route could also be extended to Rosyth to enable more cargo to reach the Central Belt by sea, rather than road, without affecting the current timetable, as the majority of the cargo has an origin or destination in the Central Belt and points further south.

"The Rosyth option would also benefit the travel and tourism markets in Orkney and Shetland, giving more choices and helping to develop new markets."

The full report,Future Options for Northern Isles Ferry Services, can be seen at

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