The council’s decision to base the ferry Filla in Skerries is expected to be overturned this week after a major risk assessment highlighted “grave reservations” about the proposal.
Insurers have also indicated they would be unlikely to cover such a move, according to a report which will go before councillors on Wednesday.
The anticipated u-turn will please ferry staff, who had already raised concerns with management about the plan, but associated cost-cutting measures mean that islanders in Skerries are now likely to be left with a reduced timetable and a five day only service.
Councillors voted to base the Filla in Skerries rather than in Whalsay, in February as part of the ferries service review. At the time, worries over safety were raised, as was the possibility of problems redeploying staff to the island. However, despite serious misgivings expressed by some – particularly Jonathan Wills, who stated that berthing overnight in Skerries “isn’t going to work” – the move was agreed.
Officials have now conceded that they were wrong. A report to go before the full council on Wednesday admits that “the agreed option is now considered to be undeliverable”.
In addition to the “significant” safety risks confirmed by Spencer Marine Consulting Ltd, who carried out the risk assessment, the council has also learned since February that it could face large serverance costs and even constructive dismissal compensation claims from staff unwilling to be redeployed to Skerries.
This means that a planned saving of more than £270,000 will now have to be found another way, and the proposal to be put before councillors this week is that cuts are made instead to the Filla’s timetable.
An example timetable has been included with the report, which shows the service being reduced to five days per week instead of six, with Tuesday sailings to Lerwick ended and not replaced by additional trips to Vidlin. This, it is believed, would bring the necessary savings.
The community in Skerries, however, is understood to be strongly opposed to any reduction in the number of sailing days. They hope instead to find a solution that can meet both the needs of the community and make the required cuts in spending.
• Full report on Wednesday’s council meeting and reaction to the news in this week’s Shetland Times.
• Also see: SIC agrees £12.4 million budget cut