27th May 2018
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Report highlights “grave reservations” over ferry decision

The council’s decision to base the ferry Filla in Skerries is expected to be overturned this week after a major risk assessment highlighted “grave reservations” about the proposal.

Insurers have also indicated they would be unlikely to cover such a move, according to a report which will go before councillors on Wednesday.

The anticipated u-turn will please ferry staff, who had already raised concerns with management about the plan, but associated cost-cutting measures mean that islanders in Skerries are now likely to be left with a reduced timetable and a five day only service.

Councillors voted to base the Filla in Skerries rather than in Whalsay,  in February as part of the ferries service review. At the time, worries over safety were raised, as was the possibility of problems redeploying staff to the island. However, despite serious misgivings expressed by some – particularly Jonathan Wills, who stated that berthing overnight in Skerries “isn’t going to work” – the move was agreed.

Officials have now conceded that they were wrong. A report to go before the full council on Wednesday admits that “the agreed option is now considered to be undeliverable”.

In addition to the “significant” safety risks confirmed by Spencer Marine Consulting Ltd, who carried out the risk assessment, the council has also learned since February that it could face large serverance costs and even constructive dismissal compensation claims from staff unwilling to be redeployed to Skerries.

This means that a planned saving of more than £270,000 will now have to be found another way, and the proposal to be put before councillors this week is that cuts are made instead to the Filla’s timetable.

An example timetable has been included with the report, which shows the service being reduced to five days per week instead of six, with Tuesday sailings to Lerwick ended and not replaced by additional trips to Vidlin. This, it is believed, would bring the necessary savings.

The community in Skerries, however, is understood to be strongly opposed to any reduction in the number of sailing days. They hope instead to find a solution that can meet both the needs of the community and make the required cuts in spending.

• Full report on Wednesday’s council meeting and reaction to the news in this week’s Shetland Times.

• Also see: SIC agrees £12.4 million budget cut

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4 comments

  1. David Leask

    Why again does the council have to use consultants? Do they not have health and safety specialists and marine specialists in house? I think it’s about time for a few Shetland ‘consultant’ companies to get a piece of this pie. If the marine guys at sella ness can ‘build’ a tug albeit unsuccessfully, then maybe they could have used some of their valuable time to undertake a risk assessment using local knowledge.

    Reply
  2. ian tinkler

    They use consultants because they are to stupid, weak and frightened to make a decision for themselves. It’s called moral cowardice.

    Reply
  3. john Irvine

    David, the council uses consultants because there is no one there who has any common sense, in fact if you put them all together they wouldn`t even make up a half wit!

    Reply
  4. Stewart Mack

    all of the above are of course not far from the mark, but to my mind the real reason the Council use consultants and always will is to be able to avoid responsibility. By employing a consultancy firm to produce a report, the Council can then justifiably rely on the recommendations of that report on any action they want to take, It doesnt matter thatthe consultancy brief itself may be skewed towards the decision the council officials want to reach rather than what the public want. We will never by privy to the instructions just the outcome.
    Its rather like writing the question to get the answer you want at the end of the day- Simples as a famous Meerkat might say….

    Reply

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