NorthLink sailings are returning to normal after a weekend of severe weather disruption which caused severe delays on both north and southbound services. The company said worse than forecast weather was responsible and has apologised to passengers.
The most seriously affected was the Hjaltland from Aberdeen to Kirkwall and Lerwick on Saturday night, which took almost 30 hours to reach her destination.
The vessel left Aberdeen on schedule at 5pm with 429 passengers on board. However she sailed into unexpectedly heavy seas and winds gusting to Force 10. She arrived at Kirkwall at 2am, three hours behind schedule.
Four passengers suffered minor injuries during the journey. One of them was an elderly woman who fell out of her chair and suffered a knock to the head. She received treatment from a travelling GP and disembarked as planned at Orkney.
With the weather situation worsening, Hjaltland was prevented from continuing her journey north. Her master was forced to take the vessel to a sheltered spot in Kirkwall Bay and went to anchor. As the weather eased Hjaltland set off for Shetland at around noon on Sunday. She arrived in Lerwick at 9pm.
A quick turn around was made at the Holmsgarth terminal, and she set sail for her southbound trip 20 minutes before midnight. The vessel arrived in Aberdeen at 11am on Monday.
Meanwhile Hrossey – which had been berthed in Lerwick after last week’s poor weather prevented it from leaving – sailed south with 56 passengers at 11.55am on Sunday, having been delayed since 7pm on Saturday to allow the worst of the weather to pass.
She arrived in Aberdeen without incident at 9.55pm, before heading back to Orkney at 2am on Monday morning.
The vessel finally arrived in Lerwick at 2pm, in time for the normal 5.30pm departure for Kirkwall and Aberdeen.
NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson said: “Our foremost consideration is always the safety and comfort of our passengers. In stormy conditions, our masters – who are the professionals in this regard – are the key people who make the decisions about whether we sail or not.
“They take these decisions on the basis of forecast weather and their years of experience on these routes. We take weather forecasts from three providers and there’s no doubt that over the weekend, particularly as it affected the Hjaltland, the wind and sea conditions experienced were significantly worse than those forecast.
“This is something we will be raising as part of regular dialogue with our weather forecasters. We would, though, like to apologise to passengers who suffered hardship at the weekend, some of whom thanked us at the time and have been in touch subsequently to thank our crew for the very professional manner in which they provided assistance during a difficult crossing.”