Shetland schoolgirl Sophie Wishart has won the competition to name NorthLink’s new freight vessel, with the suggestion Hildasay.
The 12-year-old was one of 20 out of 183 who entered from around the world to put forward the name of the uninhabited island off Scalloway for the ship, which will replace the ageing Hascosay. Her name was chosen in a draw.
Sophie, from Cunningsburgh, said she chose the name because of its local associations and because it followed the NorthLink initial letter vessel name pattern and had the “same number of syllables as Hascosay”.
Sophie, Shetland’s Junior Musician of the Year, will now take centre stage at a naming ceremony to be held on Wednesday 10th February at the Lerwick Ferry terminal. She wins the prize of four return trips with cabin for two and car, or equivalent, on one of NorthLink’s passenger ships.
“My dad John works as a maintenance joiner with the Lerwick Port Authority and he sees the NorthLink boats virtually every day. We saw that the company had organised a competition to name the new freight boat and dad suggested that I should put in an entry,” said Sophie, a pupil at Scalloway Junior High School.
“My younger sister Kirsty and I got out the maps and had a look at all of the peerie islands around the Shetland Mainland to see if there was anything which would be a fit for a freight boat. We had to get the name starting with an ‘H’. We saw Hildasay and thought it would be perfect. I was amazed when I got the phone call saying that I had won. But what a great surprise and I’m really looking forward to the naming ceremony in Lerwick.”
Hildasay, hitherto the Shield, is being time-chartered from owners Seatruck Ferries of Heysham. She was built in Spain in 1999 and at 10 years old is expected to be better able to maintain a reliable service in comparison to the 38-year-old Hascosay. Like Hascosay, the new ship can accommodate up to 12 passengers but with en suite twin bunk cabins.
Hascosay, which has been operated by NorthLink since 2002, had insufficient vehicle deck capacity to meet growing needs particularly at times of peak demand such as during the livestock season and is now in the process of being sold.
NorthLink commercial director Cynthia Spencer said: “The response from islanders was terrific. But it wasn’t just islanders who entered the competition. We had entries from as far afield as New York, Poland, Greece, Finland, Sweden and from all over the UK. But it’s particularly pleasing that a member of the younger generation of Shetlanders like Sophie should take the time and trouble to participate in our competition and she really deserves her prize.”
Hildasay – which is thought to take its name from an Old Norse goddess of war or to mean Battle Island – was the most frequently suggested name but the next most popular was Havra – another island off the Shetland Mainland – which was selected by eight entrants. Other popular names included Hermaness, Hjalmarr, Hoy and Hraustr.
NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson said that Hascosay had provided sterling service to freight and livestock customers for the past seven years but she was beginning to feel her age.
“Hascosay and her crew have performed exceptionally well but the time had come to look for a vessel which will give us the space to accommodate our customers’ requirements particularly at times of high demand. We will achieve all of these aims with Hildasay,” he said.
The time-charter arrangement, identical to that currently in place with NorthLink’s other dedicated freight vessel Clare, is an industry-standard practice and represents a value for money option for the chartering company as the owner continues to assume financial responsibility for all ship-related costs such as maintenance and repairs as well as crewing.
Assurances have been given to the 40 crew members on Hascosay that they will be retained and redeployed on the company’s other vessels.