Dozens of lockdown-breaking passengers have been refused travel on Serco NorthLink Ferries’ vessels to the Northern Isles.
The 50 stopped from using the route means that 320 people have so far been denied travelling to Scotland’s islands as west coast operator CalMac has stopped 273 – including a party of golfers hiding in a van.
Northlink has also handed out more than £3.8 million in refunds during the coronavirus lockdown.
The company said it is challenging passengers and denying boarding unless they are able to demonstrate that they meet the criteria of a key worker or an islander with a need to travel.
Passenger numbers across all routes operated by NorthLink have reduced by 95% between March 22, when a revised service was introduced, and the end of May. It is a similar fall to that experienced by CalMac.
For that period, 3,541 passengers were recorded by Northlink compared to 69,458 over the same period in 2019.
Vehicles were recorded at 1,368 — a reduction from 18,602 in 2019 (93%).
Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have held up strongly however recorded an overall reduction of freight meterage of 27,173 since March 22 — a 24% reduction compared to the same period last year.
More than 9,400 bookings have been cancelled to date during the COVID-19 lockdown period resulting in a reduction of 31,208 passengers across all services. This has led to over £3.8 million refunds being processed.
Stuart Garrett, Serco’s managing director of NorthLink Ferries, said: “We are currently running an essential lifeline service between the Scottish Mainland and Orkney and Shetland and so it was expected that we would see a steep decline in numbers.
“We’re thanking passengers for their understanding and co-operation at this time and do remind them that by staying at home they are helping to keep themselves and others safe.”