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.
During the period 5 January to 15 March, passenger numbers across all routes were 8,074 compared with 21,282 over the same period in 2020, a reduction of 62 per cent. Car volumes for January and February were recorded at 2,214 which represented a 58 per cent reduction on the 5,220 in 2020.
Of those journeys, 42 per cent were undertaken by key workers and 32 per cent was classed as islander necessary travel. The next highest category was essential visitor travel at 11.5 per cent followed by NHS travel (patients and staff) which represented 9.4 per cent of journeys.
Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have held up strongly. Freight lane meterage was recorded at 78,588 since the start of the year, a 5 per cent increase on the same period in 2020.
Stuart Garrett, Serco’s Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said: “NorthLink Ferries remains proud to play our part in ensuring both inward goods and essential export markets from Shetland and Orkney have been well served over this period whilst ensuring that those who need to travel can do so safely. We also again thank our customers for their adherence to the physical distancing requirements and COVID-19 protocols both within our terminals and onboard all our vessels.”
NorthLink Ferries services are operating on their normal timetable. Assessments have been carried out to ensure appropriate physical distancing can be maintained, with capacity set at 335 on the MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey, and 290 on MV Hamnavoe. Passengers travelling with NorthLink Ferries will be challenged as to their reason for travel, both at the time of booking and at the port of embarkation.
Passenger travel on the MV Helliar and MV Hildasay remains suspended to ensure resilience is maintained on these lifeline freight services, particularly with significant capital project works underway.
Bookings can be made at www.northlinkferries.co.uk or by calling 0845 6000 449.