The NorthLink ferry Hjaltland has been taken out of service for 48 hours with immediate effect after passengers came down with a sickness and diarrhoea bug.
Members of a bus tour party on a day trip to Shetland with family firm Yeomans of Hereford began to complain of symptoms during the first leg of the southbound sailing on Friday night.
On arrival in Orkney the people in the group were judged to be well enough to travel on to Aberdeen, but were confined to their cabins for the remainder of the voyage.
Permission was given for the vessel to sail north on Saturday evening and the boat was subjected to 10 hours of deep cleaning prior to sailing.
The cabins used by the tour group were left unused and all passengers were given advisory health leaflets. The vessel was withdrawn, however, after three crew members also became ill.
In its place Hrossey will operate a continuous daily shuttle service between Lerwick and Aberdeen.
NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson said: “In Aberdeen on Saturday morning experts from NHS Grampian and the Aberdeen City environmental health department met the vessel and examined those members of the party – now numbering 14 – who were ill.
“They were given the all-clear to continue their journey south and all 405 passengers on the vessel were issued with advisory health leaflets.
“The illness which the bus tour group seem to have brought on board with them, while unpleasant, is not considered to be serious.
“Passengers are being informed of the new arrangements and to them we apologise. However in light of the fresh cases of the illness arose within the crew, we thought it best to err on the side of caution and take Hjaltland out of service.”
In a statement this afternoon NHS Grampian said: “Representatives from NHS Grampian’s health protection team and Aberdeen City’s environmental health department are working closely with the ferry operator to investigate the cause of the outbreak.
“Anyone suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea should be very careful with their hand hygiene and should not attend work, school or public gatherings until 48 hours after their symptoms have settled. If people are concerned about their health they should contact their own GP or NHS24.”
MSP Tavish Scott said: “NorthLink have acted quickly both to identify and deal with the health problems and to get a shuttle service running.
“But Shetlanders, visitors and freight face disruption so we will want to know the causes and the remedy for this interruption to the lifeline service as quickly as possible.”
Details of the temporary Lerwick-Aberdeen-Lerwick timetable are as follows:
• Monday 7th June, Hjaltland, Aberdeen-Lerwick cancelled.
• Monday 7th June, Hrossey, Lerwick-Kirkwall-Aberdeen, scheduled sailing as normal.
• Tuesday 8th June, Hrossey, Aberdeen-Lerwick. Depart at 0900, arrive Lerwick 1900.
• Tuesday 8th June, Hrossey, Lerwick-Aberdeen. Depart 2100, arrive Aberdeen 0700.
• Wednesday 9th June, Hrossey, Lerwick-Kirkwall-Aberdeen. Depart 2100, arrive Hatston 0200, depart 0245 arrive Aberdeen 0900.
• Wednesday 9th June, Hjaltland, Aberdeen-Lerwick. Direct scheduled sailings as normal departing Aberdeen 1900.