NorthLink has announced it will introduce a tougher charging regime for freight customers in a bid to stamp out the high level of “no show” bookings on its ferries.
The temporary new system means invoicing will now be on the basis of trailer bookings made rather than shipped. It follows informal discussions with freight customers on how the problem could be dealt with.
Complaints had been made by private customers who had been told they could not sail with their cars only to find there was unused space on the vehicle deck. The new system will be introduced on Sunday 25th July.
NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson said: “We always strive to meet the needs of our different customer groups and against a background of high demand for deck space we recently advised all freight customers that where a parallel freight service was being operated then freight would normally be carried on the freight ships rather than on the parallel passenger service vessel.
“This eased some pressure but we have continued to have problems on four specific sailings. Pressure has been relieved on the Saturday Aberdeen–Kirkwall–Lerwick service where we are now operating an additional unscheduled parallel freight service.
“Unfortunately a similar option is not possible for the remaining three services where major problems persist. These are the Sunday Aberdeen–Kirkwall–Lerwick service; the Monday Aberdeen–Lerwick service and the Tuesday Lerwick–Aberdeen service.
“On these sailings it is clear that ‘no show’ freight is a continuing problem. We hope that the new charging regime will address the issue.
“Our aim is to ensure provision of a fair service for all of our customer groups and, equally importantly, to end the negative impact on revenue which is the result of vessels sailing with empty deck space due to the non-appearance of booked trailers.
“This is particularly important in the current economic climate when this ‘lost’ income would have helped to reduce the taxpayer funded subsidy.”
The ferry company is also introducing a time limit on freight cancellations and significant booking amendments. In future booked space can only be cancelled with seven days notice. Again, the decision applies to only three sailings identified as being a problem.
However NorthLink will consider waiving the no-show penalties and cancellation time limits in exceptional circumstances with any cases being considered on individual merit.
Mr Davidson added: “We do appreciate the difficulties under which freight customers sometimes operate. But we have to operate in a manner which is fair to all of our customers and future booking of deck space by freight operators, often far in advance and often ‘on spec’, is a practice which cannot continue when others are being denied the same space for their cars.
“We will continue to monitor the demand for deck space and take a view on how the new system operates but the new arrangements will remain in force as long as is necessary. We are, though, hopeful that it should be possible to revert to the previous arrangements once the peak season is past.”