A council delegation had high-level talks in Faroe this week about reopening air and sea links and strengthening economic ties between the two neighbours. The visit was mainly intended as a fact-finding mission to learn how Faroe successfully established its own ultra-modern fibre-optic communications network across its islands.
The opportunity was also taken to convey to the Prime Minister the Shetland fishermen’s anger at Faroe’s provocative grab of mackerel quota which could shrink local boats’ share in future years. The escalating dispute with the EU has already seen Shetland’s whitefish boats banished from Faroese waters.
The four-man delegation was led by convener Sandy Cluness who said yesterday the Prime Minister Kaj Leo Johannesen and the trade minister Johan Dahl had also been keen to raise the quota war and maintained there was plenty mackerel swimming through their waters.
The pelagic issue was only an add-on to the main business which included talks about possibly piping Faroese oil to Sullom Voe if there are discoveries made near enough. Mr Cluness said Faroe was now keen to learn about windfarms because Iceland may give it the chance to send power to the UK through the interconnector cables it is considering.
The convener and head of economic development Neil Grant had positive talks with Atlantic Airways with a view to restarting the Faroe-Shetland-London jet link. Mr Cluness said there was hope of gaining extra custom from passengers involved with the new Total gas plant.
The vice-convener Josie Simpson was in talks with Smyril Line yesterday to see if the passenger ship Norrona might include Shetland again in its Faroe-Denmark service.
Along with Mr Grant was another council official, Marvin Smith, who manages the council’s Shetland Telecom company. They gleaned information from the Faroese telecoms company Foroya Tele which owns the SHEFA cable that passes through Sandwick.
The council is currently spending £1.1 million to hook into it with the ultimate aim of bringing ultra high-speed broadband connections to all parts of Shetland instead of having to rely on BT. Mr Grant said they were able to see at first-hand how Foroya Tele has rolled out its system and to learn from its experiences.