Freight capacity row escalates

The row over ferry freight capacity has escalated with claims Transport Scotland suggested the seafood industry scale back exports to help tackle the problem.

The government body has denied the allegation, which is said to have been made during a meeting involving sector representatives and Serco NorthLink.

Transport Scotland has described the claim as “entirely wrong and disingenuous”.

But chief executive of Seafood Shetland Ruth Henderson is standing by the claim.

“When Transport Scotland’s solution is to ask these sectors – whose output is so significant not only to the Shetland economy but also to the Scottish economy – to consider reducing their production, then it does seem that we have reached an impasse,” Ms Henderson added.

“We have worked over many, many years to inform government officials about the commercial realities of this situation. This process has included commissioning an independent report to provide the detail and the evidence – as requested by Transport Scotland.

“Our representations, the data provided by the ferry operator, the report, and potential solutions have all been summarily dismissed by the agency and by the Scottish government. To say that this is disappointing is an understatement: it is inexplicable.”

A Transport Scotland statement read: “It is entirely wrong and disingenuous to suggest the industry was asked to scale back landings and processing in the meeting. Ministers are very clear about the importance of supporting commercial freight traffic for the economic wellbeing of key rural industries and our island communities.

“Transport Scotland officials recognised a previous initiative aimed at tackling freight capacity issues was not found to be beneficial by the industry. Officials were clear we remain open to working local suppliers to consider other initiatives, subject to them being practical and offering value for money.

“The planned development of the two new freight vessels will address issues like this in the longer term, but we continue to explore potential shorter term actions that could alleviate some pressures on the freight service.

“CMAL also continues to look for suitable second hand tonnage that could be added to the Northern Isles fleet.”

Responding to the statement, Ms Henderson said: “The suggestion regarding scaling back was made by a Transport Scotland official in a live meeting attended by a number of people.

“Anyone who was in attendance will be able to attest to its accuracy.”


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