Statement From Northlink Ferries
24th March 2020
Stuart Garrett, Serco's Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said: "The wellbeing of our passengers and staff is always our top priority and since the outset of COVID-19 we have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure their health and safety. We have followed relevant guidelines and advice from the Government and health officials and continue to do so. It is for this reason that restrictions have been implemented to allow only necessary travel between the Scottish mainland and Northern Isles and a reduced on board offering. Whilst we do continue to provide a lifeline service we would like to remind all passengers to adhere to Government guidelines when travelling with us for the safety of themselves, their families and our staff."
In line with Government, Transport Scotland, Health Protection Scotland and Maritime and Coastguard Agency advice, NorthLink Ferries continues to operate sailings between the Scottish mainland and the Northern Isles but with a significant number of changes made to the on board offering. This includes:
Suspension of cinema
Suspension of car valet
Closure of on board shops
Closure of on board bar area
Suspension of MV Hamnavoe bed and breakfast
Due to the duration of crossings between Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick, food and drink will continue to be available on board but with an amended menu. Stricter enforcing of social distance requirements are also in place.
Serco NorthLink Ferries recorded more than 8,000 journeys during the start of 2021 as it continues to support essential travel. The service remains aligned to the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework, with NorthLink Ferries providing key worker, essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland.
Serco NorthLink Ferries is continuing to maintain vital transport links over the autumn and winter period - following the opening of its 2021 booking system at the start of October. The service remains aligned to the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework, and while passenger and car volumes are down significantly year-on-year they have shown further signs of strengthening over the last few months.
Four-legged friends can now travel with their owners between the Scottish mainland and Orkney and Shetland - thanks to new pet-friendly cabins on NorthLink Ferries passenger vessels MV Hamnavoe, MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey. Each ship has two pet-friendly cabins available which have en-suite facilities, side-by-side lower twin bunks and tea and coffee making facilities.
Serco NorthLink Ferries has been operating a revised service during Phase 1 and 2 of lockdown, which has provided travel for key workers as well as essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland. During the period 22 March to 30 June, passenger numbers across all routes were 6,010 in comparison to 112,416 over the same period in 2019, representing a reduction of 95 per cent.
Serco NorthLink Ferries continues to request that travellers stay at home and help to save lives as the company was forced to refuse travel to 23 passengers since 22 March. As part of the national effort to deal with the current public health crisis, NorthLink Ferries has been monitoring passengers' reasons for travelling, which are captured during the booking process, and denying travel to or from the Northern Isles to those who disclose non-essential reasons.
A new temporary timetable has been introduced by Serco NorthLink Ferries, designed to continue to provide a lifeline service between mainland Scotland and the Northern Isles whilst reflecting travel demand during the COVID-19 outbreak. In line with advice from the Scottish Government and health officials, restrictions have been implemented in recent weeks to allow only necessary travel, resulting in a significant reduction in passenger numbers.
The MV Hamnavoe is due to be in dry dock from 13th to 26th January 2020 (inclusive), and there will be additional north and southbound calls into Kirkwall by the MV Hrossey and MV Hjaltland. During this time the MV Helliar will provide a replacement service on the Pentland Firth route.
Serco, the international service company, has been selected as preferred bidder to continue managing and operating the lifeline Northern Isles Ferry Services for passengers and freight between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands, providing essential access and supplies for the islanders. The outcome of the tender was announced by the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands to The Scottish Parliament this morning.
Company is first Scottish transport operator to introduce pioneering support service. Serco NorthLink Ferries has partnered with one of Scotland's digital start-ups to improve journeys for customers who require additional support.
Visitors to some of Scotland's main agricultural shows this summer could win free travel to the Northern Isles on board Serco NorthLink Ferries. Anyone stopping by the company's stand at the Royal Highland Show, Caithness Show, Turriff Show or Isles Shows will be able to enter a prize draw for a trip on board its vessels.