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Serco operates ferry services safely, reliably, and sustainably, meeting the needs of local communities while facilitating leisure, tourism, and economic growth. We manage the Northern Isles ferry services between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney and Shetland islands. In Sweden we operate the Djurgarden Ferries with our partner Stromma.

Serco won the Northern Isles Ferry Services contract in 2012. Since then we have significantly transformed the business with the result that we are now held up as a key partner in the development of the islands’ economy. Our approach has been to draw on the deep capabilities in Serco such as the management of vessels, customer-focussed passenger transport services, a strong service ethos across our people, key supporting services such as procurement, stakeholder engagement and destination orientated marketing. 

NorthLink Ferry in Port

The key features of our success are:

  • Regular engagement with stakeholders ensures the service meets the needs of users – passenger and freight, both now and into the future. In particular we have worked very closely with the main businesses on the islands notably aquaculture, livestock and renewables to understand what’s critical to their supply and delivery chains so as to better meet their needs.
  • Achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction we always think about the entire customer journey and with Serco NorthLink ferries we have made improvements right across that journey.  This is from an on board makeover of the three passenger vessels, modernising the way customers book, introducing connecting integrated transport services and enabling customers to give us feedback directly on board.
  • Supporting the Northern Isles and NE Scotland economy having developed a network of local suppliers ensuring that nearly all the food, drink and gifts we sell on board are sourced locally.  We have acted as an exemplar to other businesses in Serco and outside to reap the benefits of local sourcing working with local SMEs and Social Enterprises
  • Our People are key and we are committed to local employment, in particular for those living in the remote regions where we sail.  We have a highly engaged organisation and this has helped with being awarded Investors in People Gold Award.  We also have introduced a new apprenticeship programme working with NAFC Marine Centre in Shetland developed to deliver a series of new junior positions in the company.

Key Facts:

  • We took over NorthLink Ferries in 2012 and have since improved vessel utilisation, refurbished all three passenger vessels, introduced sleeping POD seats to provide additional overnight accommodation, enhanced accessibility standards, and introduced more local produce.
  • Since taking over the Northern Isles contract we have increased our local employment by 25% providing £11.5m gross wages to the local economy and we are also an accredited Scottish Living Wage Employer
  • Through use of on board tablet devices we receive constant feedback from customers and the result that 99% of customers positively rate the experience with us.
  • We have changed the way in which the vessels go through dry dock and is now no longer just done annually or biannual but in meeting regulatory guidance thereby improving the level of service reduction.  This is further helped by our decision to dry dock in Scotland, at Rosyth thus reducing transit times and the duration of out of service time.
  • 84% of products sold on board are sourced from within 50 miles of the operation.

Contact us for further information on Serco’s ferry services: