Workers’ union calls on Scottish government to address ferry service shortfalls

Pentalina (Photo: Mackinnon)

The UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has written to Kevin Stewart, the new Transport Minister in the Scottish government, to demand an urgent meeting over the “increasingly fragile resilience of ferry services” in the wake of a vessel grounding incident that occurred off the Orkney Islands late last week.

On Saturday, April 29, Pentland Ferries’ Ro-Pax vessel Pentalina grounded off the Orkneys after it suffered an engine room fire. All 60 passengers and some crewmembers were safely transferred to responding rescue boats.

The vessel was brought back into service in the Pentland Firth following the Scottish Government-approved decision to time charter Pentland Ferries’ other vessel, the Ro-Pax ferry Alfred, for £9 million (US$11.2 million) to provide relief on specific Clyde and Hebrides routes.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said that Pentalina had a recent history of safety issues while Alfred is subject to an ongoing UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch probe after it grounded off Swona in July last year, injuring six passengers.

The root causes of the two incidents are “the Ferguson Marine fiasco and the complete lack of a coherent ferries plan,” added Mr Lynch.

“We are now at a stage where the Northern Isles as well as the island communities and local economies in the west of Scotland are forced to live with the restricted capacity on their ferry services just as the summer timetables hit full swing,” the RMT wrote in its letter to the transport minister.

The RMT said it is committed to resolving these issues, which the union claims are affecting its 1,200 members at vessel operating companies Pentland Ferries, CalMac Ferries, and NorthLink to “an intolerable extent.”

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