The number of Shetland folk trying to book NorthLink crossings to the UK mainland has increased massively since travel restrictions were eased over the weekend, staff say.
NorthLink announced on Friday that folk would be able to travel on its ferries between Shetland, Orkney and Aberdeen to visit family – for the first time since lockdown began.
According to one member of NorthLink staff, the announcement sparked a huge amount of interest from folk who were keen to see their family on the mainland after months of enforced separation.
But although the new guidelines permit family visits, NorthLink has also asked travellers to “consider whether they are adhering to the spirit of government guidelines”.
As restrictions are still in place preventing folk visiting people’s homes or staying overnight, it means not all family visits will be practically achievable.
Other than single-person households, who are allowed to form “extended households” including for overnight stays, other folk would likely need to return on the sailing after their arrival or seek alternative accommodation such as camping in their relatives’ gardens.
But while the restrictions may be seen as a hindrance – many folk are still keen to enquire.
And despite the increase in bookings, NorthLink has space available on its crossings. Spaces are limited to 120 per crossing – and 30 of those are reserved for key workers.
NorthLink has also increased its services to a regular two-vessel timetable.
Stuart Garrett, Serco’s managing director for NorthLink Ferries, said: “Following the move to phase two of Scotland’s route map out of the Covid-19 crisis, we will begin to increase our services from today (22nd June).
“The Aberdeen to Kirkwall and Lerwick route, served by MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey, will return to their normal timetable from that date.
“As per the guidance from the Scottish government, journeys on NorthLink Ferries are restricted to those categories outlined in phase two of the route map.
“This includes key workers and those visiting family. You should only travel if you can do so while adhering to the wider government guidelines, with face coverings worn where required. We have published advice on how to travel safely with NorthLink Ferries on our website.
“Bookings must be made in advance either by phoning our team on 0845 6000 449 or (01856) 885500 between 8am and 8pm or by contacting email@example.com.”