Serco NorthLink Ferries has upped its security presence and reassured passengers that they are investigating reports of anti-social behaviour onboard the vessels.
The move comes as allegations were put to The Shetland Times about several incidents on the North Boats, including an altercation between a passenger and crew member on the bridge, and an “incident of a sexual nature”, directed at a young woman with a baby.
These, it was claimed, were part of a more widespread increase in drunkenness and misbehaviour on the ferries.
Writing to this newspaper, Charlie Gallagher said that “It would be a very sad day indeed if it has come to the situation where ordinary passengers, islanders or tourists are being subjected to any kind of inappropriate or depraved behaviour while going about what should be a pleasant journey.
“It would be even more disturbing if these incidents had and still are taking place and Serco is choosing to sweep them under the carpet to protect its own or others’ reputations.” He urged anyone who had witnessed such behaviour to report it to the police.
However, while Serco NorthLink would not confirm whether or not the incidents mentioned had taken place, the company insisted the allegations were being taken seriously. They also revealed that an additional member of security staff has been employed at the terminal in Lerwick, though they would not say when this took place, or whether it was in response to a perceived rise in anti-social behaviour.
Customer service director for Serco NorthLink Ferries Cheryl Fox said: “We are aware that there have been reports of a number of incidents onboard in recent weeks and we are investigating these in the same way in which we investigate all such reports. Such anti-social behaviour is never acceptable and we will take all necessary steps to ensure that we eradicate it.
“We take the safety and wellbeing of our passengers extremely seriously and we have therefore increased our security presence for all sailings. Also, in line with standard procedures, those considered to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at check-in will not be allowed to board.”
The statement went on: “While our bars and restaurants do serve alcohol during sailings, our staff are encouraged to refuse the sale of alcohol to any passenger whose behaviour may cause offence to other passengers or who may be deemed to be putting themselves, staff or fellow passengers at risk.
“We will always investigate fully any complaints which are brought to our attention by passengers, as well as dealing with misbehaviour observed by our own staff. Within our conditions of carriage there is an implicit expectation of the standard of behaviour expected of passengers once on-board.
“We have in the past, and will continue to, bar any passenger who behaves in a manner that is unruly or threatening to our staff or customers.”