North Sea cargo plan remains in doubt

FUTURE plans by fledgling ferry operator John White to sail a cargo vessel between Rosyth and Zeebrugge as part of his proposal for a new freight service from Shetland have been cast into doubt.

Dutch operator Norfolkline is due to take up the route next Spring, following the recent departure of Greek company Superfast.

The Rosyth route had formed part of Mr White’s ambitions to turn Shetland into a cargo hub by ferrying freight to and from Norway, mainland UK and beyond under the banner of Norshukon.

Last week The Shetland Times reported on a setback in Mr White’s ambitious proposals.

An application for for funding through the European Marco Polo fund had been refused, for fear the venture’s Rosyth-Zeebrugge leg would clash with the then current Superfast service.

Mr White was told by European officials to withdraw his proposals for that route.

But doing so meant his total projected cargo dropped below a required threshold for the funding to go ahead.

The project, which would have used the funding to buy a vessel Mr White had his eye on, was not totally put to bed.

After the funding was turned down it transpired Superfast were pulling out of the route, leaving the door open for Norshukon to resubmit its funding application for a revised service next January. Superfast’s last ferry sailing from Rosyth subsequently ran last weekend.

But doubts materialised following reports in the national media that Forth Ports, which has control over the harbour at Rosyth, were “optimistic” about a new operator being found soon threw Norshukon’s plans into confusion.

Yesterday it transpired the deal with Norfolkline had gone through.

Mr White said Norshukon would not be thrown into jeopardy by the new ferry service, adding he would merely alter his plans accordingly.

“There would be sufficient freight purely on the Norwegian leg to justify our application.

“Had we known about all this a year ago we wouldn’t have had a delay.

“When the time comes to fill in our application we will base our figures on the parameters at the time.”

Mr White originally planned to operate a cargo ship between Kristiansund and Lerwick, with connections to Orkney, Scrabster and Aberdeen through the existing NorthLink service.

A second, larger ship was also planned to run between Kristiansund, Zeebrugge and Rosyth.

But when the Marco Polo funding was turned down following a lengthy delay over the summer, Mr White had to let go the vessel he had planned to buy with the money.

Instead he decided to concentrate on using one vessel.


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