With Serco Northlink Ferries’ MV Hamnavoe at Cammell Lairds in Birkenhead for a two week refit, the Northern Isles lifeline ferry services operator has yet again been unable to fulfil its contractual obligation to provide a replacement ferry during refits and breakdowns.
Such failures in the event of breakdown are understandable; but refit schedules are known well in advance, so failure in such instances to comply with contractual agreements is a different matter.
It becomes arguable that the Scottish Government must have been well aware that there would be no replacement vessel at any stage of the Serco contract.
In this event, the government has been less than honest with the islanders – and less than, shall we say ‘straightforward’ – in taking the contract from the former operator, the state owned Northlink Ferries which, presumably, tendered at a price that would have have guaranteed the required replacement vessel during any downtime in the normal fleet.
The short Orkney ferry route operator, Pentland Ferries, is taking on the role of lifeline service provider during Hamnavoe’s refit – with an auxiliary bus service carrying Orcadian foot passengers between its terminals to the two Serco terminals at Scrabster and Stromness.
Serco has made a contribution to the ferry service.
It has laid on the freight boat Helliar on its normal route into Stromness.
‘Cargo hold or container, Madame?’
Of course there is some comedy in this but, to be fair, the Helliar will play a part in serving Orkney’s need over this period.