Caithness Map :: Links to Site Map Great value Unlimited Broadband from an award winning provider  


Caithness People Urged To Give Views on New Faster Ferry Services Gills/Burwick

27th October 2014

Photograph of Caithness People Urged To Give Views on New Faster Ferry Services Gills/Burwick

Independent questionnaire conducted for Pentland Ferries Ltd by 'Survey Monkey' about the desirability of a 'real' short-sea-crossing of Pentland Firth Gills Harbour, Caithness to a 'new' RO:RO terminal at Burwick, just eight miles across the water.

Give Your Views In the survey HERE

Folk in Caithness who travel by ferry to Orkney have only a few more days to vote if they would like to see a new route developed from Gills Harbour that would cut the Pentland Firth sea-crossing time to just half-an-hour.

The planned sea-route would be only 8 miles from Gills to Burwick, at the Southern tip of South Ronaldsay. Burwick is 21 miles by the main A 961 road from Kirkwall, the island 'capital'.

In the preamble to the seven questions asked, the company headed by well-known North of Scotland entrepreneur Mr Andrew Banks, OBE states:- 'Pentland Ferries would like to develop a Ro-Ro service from Burwick to Gills Bay. We would invest on a new passenger and vehicle ferry to cover this route. This would allow us to offer more frequent sailings across the Pentland Firth.

It continues :- 'For this to happen, we would require permission from Orkney Islands Council to develop the Pier at Burwick. If the public supports a Burwick-Gills Bay service, we would be prepared to develop the Burwick Pier for this purpose at our own cost'.

The family-owned private company says that is surveying public opinion to see if there is backing for such a service that would enable it to approach the Council.

Pentland Ferries' popular modern catamaran ship Pentalina now sails thrice-daily year-round from Gills Harbour on her scheduled 15 mile, one hour long, sea-crossing to St Margaret's Hope. Her present Orkney terminus is 6 miles closer to Kirkwall by road than Burwick is.

The 7-point questionnaire is open to all persons who cross the Firth by ferry 'on business or leisure or both' and is not restricted only to islanders, as some Caithnessians seem to have believed.

It asks for a person's initial, surname and address postcode, but it pledges that 'these personal details are collected to ensure that entries are not duplicated'.

It adds : 'This information will be deleted once the survey responses have been analysed', pledging that such 'personal information will not be shared with any other individuals or organisations'.

In 1988.89, the private company Orkney Ferries plc, which ceased trading over two decades ago, partially developed terminals at both Burwick, in Orkney, and Gills in Caithness, using monies raised through a share issue flotation under the then 'Business Expansion Scheme'.

It also included a deposit and early payments on the new-build RO:RO vessel 50 metre 'Varagen', then held on a Bank of Scotland lease.

This latter was 'bought out' by the Council that still uses the ship on Orkney's internal North Isles ferry routes; the Council's present Orkney Ferries subsidiary is unrelated to the earlier similarly-named plc.

Subsequently, after Orkney Ferries plc's funds were spent, Orkney Island Council invested private-sector monies from one of the North Sea Oil funds that it administers on behalf of the people of Orkney, into further works at both Burwick & Gills. The locations on either side of the Pentland Firth were seen as ferry-terminus 'twins'.

Only test-runs were done into Burwick using Varagen in 1989 and no RO:RO service ever operated there; but the facility has been used more-or-less since then during each year's summer months as a berth for the passenger-only seasonal service operated by John O'Groats Ferries with its Pentland Venture.

An Orkney Ferries plc freight-only service ran for a short period in 1989 from Gills to Houton, on the North side of Scapa Flow.

It ended after the company's intentionally-floating 'link-span' at Gills became dislodged; there was no hydraulic system to raise it out of the water when it was not in use, making ot vulnerable to swells and exacerbated as there was then no breakwater at Gills Harbour.

The plc's partial lease at Gills was firstly assigned to a trading arm of Orkney Islands Council and then in turn to Pentland Ferries Ltd. in the late 1990s.

Gills Harbour Ltd, the Canisbay community company that owns Gills facilities has strongly supported the revival of the ancient trans-Pentland 'short sea route' to Burwick, so long as the interests of the John O'Groats company are 'protected'.

Said chairman Bill Mowat, a former NE Caithness Councillor: 'From what we know, there is a clear majority of people who prefer any crossing to involve as short a sea- passage as possible. This is certainly the case if some of the sea-miles can be substituted by a main-road journey on dry land. And that is certainly true for any trip across the Pentland Firth'.

'Pentland Ferries has been true to its word in delivering a modern ferry terminal on sea and land here at Gills Harbour at no cost at all to the public purse.

'We are confident that Mr Banks's company can make 'a good fist of things' if it secures access to Burwick, and we want to look forward to a second new ship operating from Gills Harbour and providing a 'shuttle services' to Orkney at least during summer months.

'One important reason for our backing is that the planned new service will bring Orkney's Mainland within reasonable 'day travel-to-work distance' for Caithness folk ... and vice-versa ... as was predicted in the 1993 'Gills Harbour Report' commissioned by our predecessor Gills Harbour Association and which envisaged an upgraded RO:RO facility being completed at Burwick.'

Electronic entry forms are on Pentland Ferries website.

Give Your Views In the survey HERE


Related Businesses


Related Articles

MV Alfred And MV Pentalina Together At GillsThumbnail for article : MV Alfred And MV Pentalina Together At Gills
An 'old friend' returns to Gills Bay after an absence of manymonths.   The 2,400 tonne 70 m.  
Normand Cutter, The Norwegian-owned Offshore Construction Vessel at GillsThumbnail for article : Normand Cutter, The Norwegian-owned Offshore Construction Vessel at Gills
Here is the Normand Cutter, the Norwegian-owned offshore construction vessel that has been the base for works on Simec Atlantis Energy's (SAE's) MeyGen site in the Pentland Firth's Inner Sound, off Gills Bay during the current neap-tide sequence, that has lasted most of the week commencing 11.08.20.   Picture by retired C of S Kirk Minister the Rev Lyall Rennie, who lives at Lower Warse, Canisbay, on the shores of Gills Bay..  
Safe Loading In Rough Seas At Gills Harbour Pentland FerriesThumbnail for article : Safe Loading In Rough Seas At Gills Harbour Pentland Ferries
With expert guidance from the crew of Pentland Ferries "Alfred" this lorry safely loads onto the ferry at Gills Harbour, Caithness, today (9 January 2019), for her crossing to St Margarets Hope.   Sea swells were evident, making the job even harder & causing the ferry to be delayed.  
New Ferry Mv Alfred Set For First Crossing Of Pentland FirthThumbnail for article : New Ferry Mv Alfred Set For First Crossing Of Pentland Firth
Pentland Ferries' new £14-million vessel, mv Alfred is almost ready to make its first trip from St Margaret's Hope to Gills Bay on Friday, 1st November 2019.   The new ferry arrived on 9th October 2019 after completing its journey from the shipbuilders in Vietnam for the final fittings to be carried at Kirkwall after quick call at St Margarets Hope where local children had a chance to get a glimpse of it.  
New Ferry For Pentland Ferries Arrives SafelyThumbnail for article : New Ferry For Pentland Ferries Arrives Safely
Scotland's most modern + environmentally-friendly, fuel-efficient ROPAX ferry ship rge MV Alfred, arrived AM today (Wed 09.10.19 at St Margarets Hope.   The boat went round to Kirkwall immediately at the end of 9,000+ miles voyage from the Strategic Marine yard near Ho Chi Minh city (ex.  
New Ferry For Pentland Ferries On Its Way From VietnamThumbnail for article : New Ferry For Pentland Ferries On Its Way From Vietnam
Pentland Ferries has announced that the company's new ship, Alfred, left the yard in Vietnam, yesterday morning, Thursday, to start the long voyage home to Orkney.   Director of Pentland Ferries, Kathryn Scollie, said: "We are delighted that the MV Alfred is now on her way.  
Gills Harbour Ltd Awards Contract To Local FirmThumbnail for article : Gills Harbour Ltd Awards Contract To Local Firm
Gills Harbour Ltd, the community-owned body that owns & operates the busy little port on Caithness's North Coast, has awarded a remedial contract to a Wick-based company.   The deal, won in a competitive tender, has gone to builders/civil engineers Messrs GMR Henderson Ltd, of Martha Terrace in Wick.  
Latest Update From Gills Harbour To Caithness Transport ForumThumbnail for article : Latest Update From Gills Harbour To Caithness Transport Forum
A. Alfred Banks, Born Kirkwall Born 13 May 1931 Died 26 January 2019Thumbnail for article : A. Alfred Banks, Born Kirkwall Born 13 May 1931 Died 26 January 2019
A Alfred Banks, born Kirkwall, Orkney 13 May 1931 died St.  Margaret's Hope, Orkney, 26 January 2019.  
Tidal Turbines Returned To Meygen Site In The Pentland FirthThumbnail for article : Tidal Turbines Returned To Meygen Site In The Pentland Firth
The big offshore construction vessel Seabed Stingray (8,878 tonnes) arrived in the Pentland Firth's Inner Sound from the Cromarty Firth's Nigg Energy Park around 07:00 on Monday (15.10.18) morning with a very special cargo on board.   The 121 metre-long vessel was in the narrow strait between Gills Bay and Stroma Island to replace two of the four 'pioneering' tidal turbines that had been lifted out from SIMEC Atlantis Energy's MeyGen site last Summer for inspection and modification at Nigg.