Police to be asked if photo ID on ferries helped cut crime

Police in Lerwick will be asked how useful the photo ID scheme ditched by NorthLink was in tackling crime.

The question will be posed following last night’s community council meeting in the town, during which members lamented the loss of the ID requirement less than five years after it was introduced.

Serco’s managing director, Stuart Garrett, announced in November that passengers sailing on the north boats would no longer have to provide photo identification before boarding.

Speaking at the meeting, town councillor Amanda Westlake questioned why it  had been done away with, pointing to recent alleged drug seizures following the ferry’s arrival at Holmsgarth.

Chairman Jim Anderson said he was “quite happy” for there to be ID cards.

There were murmurings of agreement, with one voice insisting air passengers could not get off the ground without first offering some form of photo ID.

Karen Fraser told members: “We don’t have any real evidence whether it helps or not, but it might be worth asking the police whether it was useful.”

The photo ID system was introduced by NorthLink in May 2008. At the time, community councillors in the town heavily criticised the plans.

On Monday they also agreed to write to Serco and “quite pointedly” ask what contingency plans the company has to crew the ferries should there be a large and unexpected increase in passenger numbers.

A letter to members from the company’s customer care manager, James Linklater, said the ferries would have “a variable muster list which will reflect the volume of passengers travelling.”

The letter added: “Crewing will be increased as per the demand. The Hjaltland and Hrossey muster lists have been viewed and approved by the MCA.”

Karen Fraser wondered how quickly crewing levels could increase if demand suddenly shot up if, for example, the flights from Sumburgh were fog-bound and air passengers were forced to seek a bunk on the boat instead.

Eddie Knight worried that Serco would be using “casual labour” by reducing staff.

Allan Wishart, who chairs Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee, said the question had been posed “quite a few times” to Serco.

It had always led to a “bland” response from the company, he said, that it would always manage to crew the boats – although he insisted there was no harm in asking again.

Mr Anderson insisted Serco would have a “win situation” on its hands if the Scottish government had failed to stipulate in its contract with the company an obligation to cover stranded flights.

Will’m Spence said real problems could emerge if any flights were cancelled during the summer when the boat was busy.

“In the event of this happening in the summer time, when the boats are fully booked up, they couldn’t help anyway.”

The discussions follow the calling off of ferry worker’s strike action which was scheduled to run in December.

RMT union members threatened the action over planned cuts and redundancies.

In his letter, Mr Linklater said 36 employees had applied for voluntary redundancy, and were already starting to leave the business.

Mr Wishart told the meeting: “I understand there have been continuing discussions between Serco and the RMT, and no news is good news as far as I’m concerned.”


Add Your Comment
  • Peter Coleman

    • January 9th, 2013 8:09

    If the police really want to find out who you are they will, they don’t need a photo ID card to do it. Requiring photographic ID is just 1 more hassle the people of Shetland and the people that come to visit it don’t need.

  • John K Smith

    • January 9th, 2013 12:06

    As a frequent visit to Shetland I am against dropping the photo identification requirement. As others have said it is essential when flying so why should NorthLink make it easy for criminals and terrorists. There is no problem what so ever in showing our passports, it is no insult, just a safety precaution against the bad guys.
    NorthLink bring it back as soon as you can and make us all feel safer sailing with you.

  • Ron Stronach

    • January 9th, 2013 12:15

    It does sound like casual labour will be used if and when passenger numbers increase, which is fine in normal circumstances. However god, forbid if there is an emergency, will these casual crew members be able to assist “professionally” if an evacuation is called for?

    It’s no good not knowing where to go and what to do if you have to abandon ship. The crew are there for this purpose, not just to clean up after us all.

  • eleanor black

    • January 9th, 2013 18:27

    I say “Nonsense” to Peter Coleman’s statement. There is absolutely NO HASTLE in showing ID. I frequently say to those that BE on The Isle of Bute “Look to Shetland for all things good.” I would like to see ID being required on ALL Argyll & Bute ferries. Ferries are a means of bringing drugs on to all islands. The police cannot possibly recognise all criminals, & most certainly the ferry personnel cannot do either. PAX

  • Shuard Manson

    • January 10th, 2013 1:49

    Eleanor i’m afraid we had id checks and still, somehow drugs feature on these islands. why is that?

  • Harry Dent

    • January 10th, 2013 12:42

    Ditching the ID reqirement is the only decent thing Serco has done since it took over. I’ve sometimes struggled to provide suitable ID as I don’t have a passport or a driving licence, and I’m not the only one in this situation.

    I’m not convinced that photo ID makes any difference whatever to fighting crime but perhaps someone can explain how carrying a photograph of yourself in your wallet makes it easier for the police to identify you as an illegal drugs dealer.

  • Johan Adamson

    • January 10th, 2013 16:55

    I have nothing against photo id but wonder why are the islands so special. Should you also have a border control at Helmsdale to stop drugs getting to Caithness? Do you think having a ferry ride in between has lessened the effects of drugs here?

  • Robert Wishart

    • January 11th, 2013 8:22

    I object to having show identification to travel from one part of the country to another. We were told the photo ID was a legal requirement, now we learn it was not.
    If photo ID is required on ferries why not on trains,buses, taxis and what about all those nasty criminals on foot? Even those nasty Tories have seen the folly of Labour’s identity card plans. Lerwick Community Council has gone barmy. Again.

  • Sandy McDonald

    • January 11th, 2013 11:14

    I can see that if you don’t drive or have a passport or some form of photo ID it would be very inconvenient. There canna be many folk that don’t have at least one of these though. 1% of the population? Anyone know?

    I don’t see the big issue about showing ID, you have to do it before flying or making large withdrawals at the bank. Surely at least there is comfort in knowing someone isn’t going to pretend to be you and nick your ticket.

  • Harry Dent

    • January 11th, 2013 13:00

    I have no idea, Sandy, what proportion of the general population has neither passport nor driving licence, but in our two-person household it’s 100%.

  • jeffery crowe

    • January 11th, 2013 17:54

    re’ north link i.d requirement
    for my 60th birthday i made plans to visit shetland for the 4th time to arrive 19/8/2012
    {my birthday} my other visits having been 2004 2005 & 2006
    and as before all arrangements had to be put in place before a ferry booking could
    made. untill i phoned the ferry operator i had no idea photo id was required
    my passport expired 83 the photo in it was from 73 i was 21 {useless}
    i do not drive! and so have no photo id!
    crisis! all other plans in place! no time to resolve the problem.
    what to do? explain my position to the call center and hope for the best
    and what happend? advised requirement waived for 1 time only.
    future visits would not qualify and id would be a must
    still for my next visit i should have a bus pass compleat with photo id
    should the draconian rule be re- applied
    ps had as good a time as my previous visits!


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