Serco says it is confident the North boats will be able to sail on Sunday night, averting the danger of a serious shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables over the festive period.
This morning the company confirmed that tonight’s boat sailing from Aberdeen had been cancelled.
Saturday night’s sailing to Lerwick, via Kirkwall, remains under review but “due to the current weather forecast this departure is likely to be cancelled”, the company said. It will make a final decision at 10am on Saturday.
Serco NorthLink managing director Stuart Garrett said the intention was for the Hjaltland to depart as scheduled from Aberdeen on Sunday. The company also intends to load traffic and passengers in Lerwick as normal on Sunday evening and wait for a weather window before sailing.
Mr Garrett said: “The message is that there will be a scheduled sailing both north and southbound before Christmas.”
He said the two captains in charge of the Hjaltland and Hrossey described conditions in the North Sea as “appalling”.
“These boys don’t take any pride at all in not sailing,” he said. “It’s not something that somebody would do lightly – we’re very conscious of the impact on the travelling public and our haulier companies.”
Tesco’s Lerwick store manager Paul Clelland said “all hell broke loose” at the supermarket after media reports about the possibility of there being no more boats before Christmas.
“It was okay yesterday until word went out that the boat wasn’t running last night, then basically the shop just took off,” he said. “We’re short on fruit and veg, and we’re short on bread.”
The lack of fresh food is likely to be a problem over the weekend – there were stories of folk grappling over the last remaining Brussels sprouts on Thursday. But shelves at some country shops are said to be still “fully stocked” with sprouts and other fresh produce.
Friday’s southbound sailing has also been cancelled, and Serco is advising that Saturday night’s voyage is unlikely to go ahead. Freight vessel Hildasay’s planned sailing from Lerwick to Aberdeen has also fallen victim to the weather.
Airline Loganair has laid on a pair of extra flights from Aberdeen on Saturday to help people trying to get home for the festive period.