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.”