The two freight ferries serving the Northern Isles have been bought by the Scottish government.
Vessels MV Helliar and MV Hildasay will join the Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) fleet, having previously been chartered from Fortress.
This means that the entire NorthLink fleet connecting Lerwick, Kirkwall and Aberdeen is now under government ownership following last year’s purchase of the firm’s passenger ferries.
Minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “Our ferry services are iconic transport links that play a vital role for our island economies, so it’s important that we secure the two freight ferries for the future.
“Purchasing the vessels outright will also bring financial benefits by delivering savings to the public purse over the longer term.
“Making sure these lifeline transport links continue to support the communities and businesses they serve and deliver best value for taxpayer’s money remains at the heart of our ferry operations.”
Chief executive of CMAL, Kevin Hobbs, said: “This deal secures the future of the freight ferries, strengthening lifeline ferry provision for Orkney and Shetland.
“It follows our purchase earlier in this financial year of three passenger vessels serving the Northern Isles, bringing the entire fleet of NorthLink ferries under our ownership.”
The Northern Isles ferry contract is due for renewal later this year. Three bidders – NorthLink, CalMac and German shipping operators FRS Group – are in the running.