Norröna return discussed at London meeting

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Moves are afoot to bring the Scandinavian cruise ship Norröna back to Shetland following a meeting in London between SIC Convenor Malcolm Bell and Faroese Prime Minister Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen.

According to Mr Bell, the Faroese leader will try to broker a meeting between the council and the board of Smyril Line, the operators of Norröna.

Mr Bell emphasised that Norröna, in which the SIC has a stake via its £4.5 million Smyril Line investment, will not be visiting Shetland this year nor, most likely, next either. And if the council and the ferry company cannot drum up a beneficial use for the council’s investment, the SIC will consider what should be done with its Norröna shareholding.

He said: “If we can get some sort of a link back it might make it [the investment] worthwhile holding and if not, we need to examine what to do with it. We do need to go there and hear what they’re saying.”

Mr Bell said that a range of topics would be on the table when a council delegation visits Faroe later in the summer. These would include subsea tunnels, broadband links and air travel as well as the maritime link.

Mr Johannesen, in London to celebrate Faroese independence day, had expressed regret that the Smyril Line had to pull out of Shetland when it did. Despite the Faroe government being a shareholder in Smyril, he could not direct the company what to do.

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson told a meeting of Lerwick Community Council on Monday that the chances of Norröna coming back to Shetland were slim.

Smyril had decided to drop the Lerwick to Bergen stage of its complicated North Sea route because of commercial reasons; and these still held good. Norröna had been a big customer for the port authority with up to five visits per week in its 2003 heyday.

Community councillor Andy Carter had said that “everyone regretted the demise of the Norröna,” and asked what the prospect of her return was.

Ms Laurenson told councillors: “Smyril focus on Denmark, Faroe and Iceland – that’s where they make their income. They do not come to the UK and Norway.” The biggest demand for the ferry was from German tourists who visited Iceland from Denmark, with the ferry visiting Denmark twice a week.

It was not “too big an ask for them to come in here”, she added, but there had not been any significant earnings on the Denmark to Shetland route, though more passengers had travelled from Lerwick to Bergen. “I cannot see how they will be bringing in the UK and Norway if it is not profitable,” she added.

The service, the community council heard, had actually been better used when the much smaller Smyril had been in service, but that was because sailings were concentrated in the summer rather than spread all year round. It was also noted that the numbers travelling by air from Sumburgh to Bergen had reduced when sailing on the Norröna had been an option.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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4 comments

  1. John Irvine

    Maybe our wonderful and frugal council will subsidise them to come here, what a great idea maybe give them another £4.5 million? money well spent I would say! after all the original investment was well worth it and as the previous council said at the time “it is worth millions to the shetland economy”

    Maybe the same as Viking Energy! lol.

    Reply
  2. Wayne Conroy

    But John… Thankfully they won’t need subsidised to come to Shetland seeing as a council delegation is going there! I wonder how many people will need to go on this vital trip?

    I for one am just glad they’ll be discussing broadband links when they visit Faroe this summer. Maybe it’ll save the expense of future trips as then they may be able to use a brand spanking new invention I’ve only just heard about called video conferencing. (Lets not mention that its less than a month since Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband initiative announced fibre broadband services offering speeds of up to 80Mbps coming to Shetland in the autumn.)

    And you just know how important it is to spend more money discussing tunnels! (Maybe by the time they’re finished talking about bridges/tunnels and bringing in a few more outside consultants they’ll manage to spend more money than they’ll cost.)

    Yet again it seems more money can be wasted in a time when they’re closing services for the elderly/young/vulnerable and also the rural schools across the islands due to lack of funds. I guess the cash that will pay for the trip wouldn’t for some reason or another have been able to have been used to support services or schools anyway… Sigh.

    Reply
  3. David Spence

    I just hope, if and when, the Norrona does come to Lerwick, it comes at a sensible time……..instead of coming at around 10.00 at night for only 2 hours or so like it did when it was last here……..where local businesses and the people onboard could not really have any benefit at all.

    I also hope that the Norrona has more scheduled trips to the Faroe’s, Iceland, Norway and Denmark…..but lets not hope at Scandinavian prices lol I hope the SIC can get a far better deal this time……a better deal for the people of Shetland and not for the SIC shareholding?

    Reply
  4. Christopher Knutton

    Maybe SIC would be better selling off its shares and reinvest in something like a air route there.

    Reply

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