A ferry operator which lost out on the multi-million pound contract to run services between Orkney, Shetland and the mainland is seeking damages.
Shetland Line (1984) Ltd say Transport Scotland broke tendering rules when they made their decision.
The row is about the so-called “standstill period” between deciding which bid to accept and finally concluding a deal with the successful company.
The delay – based on a European directive – is intended to give other parties a chance to review the decision and mount a challenge if they believe there has been any unfairness.
The regulations also spell out a requirement for an unsuccessful bidder to inform a public body awarding a contract before raising any court action.
The Court of Session in Edinburgh heard about an exchange of e-mails between Shetland Line, which operates the sea-freight element of the Streamline Shipping Group, and Transport Scotland in May 2012.
Lawyers for Transport Scotland claimed the messages from Shetland Line did not meet the notification requirements.
But judge Lord Woolman rejected their attempt to get the case thrown out, ruling that the ferry firm had satisfied the regulations.
A further hearing is likely at a later date which has not been fixed.
In his written ruling, Lord Woolman noted that Shetland Line had given up on any hope of running the Aberdeen-Kirkwall-Lerwick ferries but were still seeking damages.
The £243 million contract was awarded to Serco in June 2012.