Shetland hauliers in war of words over lack of freight service 

Seafood producers claim 'scaling back production' was suggested to ease capacity problems affecting the Shetland Islands.

Shetland hauliers in war of words with Transport Scotland over lack of freight service to islands iStock
Shetland seafood producers claim they were told to scale back landings and production.

Shetland seafood producers claim they were advised by a Scottish Government agency to scale back landings and production to ease freight pressure.

The seafood industry and hauliers met Transport Scotland and Serco-owned NorthLink Ferries in Lerwick earlier this week to repeat their demand for a solution to capacity problems affecting the islands.

Industry officials say there’s been a growth in freight volumes and claim they presented transport bosses with “some potential interim solutions to alleviate the pressure on the route”.

They say their proposals were not listened to but Transport Scotland has denied those allegations.

Ruth Henderson, chief executive of Seafood Shetland, said: “As peak livestock season looms – with no freighter in Lerwick on a Monday or Tuesday – we tabled our own options to the meeting

“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.

“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.”

Transport Scotland hit back by saying it was “entirely wrong and disingenuous” to suggest the industry was asked to scale back.

A spokesperson said: “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 (Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited) also continues to look for suitable second hand tonnage that could be added to the Northern Isles fleet.”