Bell will use Faroese meeting to lobby for Norröna sailings to be restored
The SIC will this week renew diplomatic ties with Faroe – partly in the hope of getting Smyril Line ferry the Norröna to stop off in the isles again.
Council convener Malcolm Bell will meet Faroese minister of trade and industry Johan Dahl and its UK ambassador in London on Wednesday.
They will be the first talks between the North Sea neighbours since the election of the new Faroese government in October.
Mr Bell said he wanted to see some form of transport link between the two islands restored. The fact the meeting was taking place in London told a story in itself, he said, as the most convenient way to make the 200-mile trip north to Torshavn is, perversely, via the UK capital.
Shetland Development Trust invested £4.2 million of public money to help the Faroese build the Norröna around ten years ago. But following financial difficulties, in 2007 Smyril Line decided the Faroe-Denmark lifeline service would cease stopping off in Lerwick.
The Norröna has often charged through Yell Sound on her way between the two Scandinavian ports subseqeuently, reminding islanders of the service they once had.
Shetland politicians have regularly called for Lerwick to be reinstated to Smyril’s timetable since then.
“They have a relatively new government, we have a relatively new council,” Mr Bell said. “There are a number of areas we want to touch on, not least of which is the Norröna. I would like to see it coming back, even if it was just for a summer season.
“Apart from anything else, the fact the Faroese minister and Shetland Islands Council have to go to London for a meeting has to prove the point.”
The SIC’s stake in Smyril Line was diluted after the company launched a new share issue in 2008 to stave off the threat of bankruptcy.
It is not clear how much the council’s original investment is worth now. But it is understood that, should it not be possible to restore Lerwick as one of the Norröna’s ports of call for at least part of the summer, the option of selling the shares will be investigated.
Other areas Shetland and Faroe have collaborated on previously include the laying of a subsea telecoms cable to improve broadband internet.
In 2007 a council delegation visited Torshavn to learn more about the Faroese experience of building subsea tunnels to connect its archipelago by road. The SIC’s long term ambition is to build similar links to Unst, Yell, Whalsay and Bressay.