Haulier’s frustration at further freight-plus delays

A haulier has voiced frustration at the latest slippage in the delivery of new freight-plus vessels.

Northwards director Neil Leslie raised concerns at today’s (Tuesday) external transport forum.

“It’s frustrating how long this has taken,” he said.

“It just seems to have gone on and on.”

He was speaking after Transport Scotland’s head of ferries Chris Wilcock said the business case for the new freight-plus vessels would be ready for submission “towards the end of the financial year”.

Mr Leslie said the business case had previously been expected by the end of this calendar year.

“Every delay just adds more and more pressure,” he said.

Freight-plus vessels have been touted as the solution to many of Shetland’s transport troubles.

With quicker crossings and more space for freight, they will provide greater capacity for hauliers and exporters.

And with the potential to take up to 200 passengers, they are also hoped to overcome the current constraints folk face when trying to book cabins and cars on the Hjaltland and Hrossey.

The new boats were at once hoped to be in service in 2026 – but that has slipped to 2028.

And Mr Wilcock said there was still no funding in place for the new vessels.

“That remains a challenge for us,” he added.

Forum chairwoman Moraig Lyall echoed Mr Leslie’s concerns.

“The sooner we can have these vessels in place the better,” she said.

Mrs Lyall highlighted the major developments scheduled for Shetland over the coming years, which include renewables projects, and said it was “very important” to have enough freight capacity to serve all sectors.

Mr Wilcock said he and his colleauges heard the message “loud and clear”.

He said the aim remained to have the vessels in service by 2028, as outlined in the Islands Connectivity Plan.

Meanwhile, he said Transport Scotland together with CMAL and NorthLink continued to search for second-hand tonnage for the freight service.


Add Your Comment
  • John Inkster

    • June 12th, 2024 13:21

    There is a serious problem of undercapacity on the freight and passenger vessels. The passenger boats are booked up for many months in advance and it has become nearly impossible to book a car and cabin to Aberdeen and back when you need one. If a vessel were to break down Transport Scotland appear to have no backup plan or vessel to step in. They seem to have been looking for second hand tonnage for years. It is an accident waiting to happen. Where would 6 months of full capacity bookings go? The answer looks to be nowhere. Look at the west coast of Scotland to see how bad things can get. The economy of Shetland is largely dictated by what those vessels can take into and out of Shetland. It is a bottleneck and a fragile one.


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