Serco NorthLink Ferries has recorded an increase in passenger and car numbers since the move to Phase three of the Scottish Government’s route map.
The figures come as the ferry operator prepares to open its 2021 booking system at the start of October.
During lockdown, Serco NorthLink provided travel for key workers as well as essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland.
Since July 10, booking systems have been open, using the government’s phase three criteria for public transport, which has allowed for an increase in capacity across all services.
During the period of March 22 to August 31, passenger numbers across all routes were 43,918 compared with 218,138 over the same period in 2019, a reduction of 80%.
However, there were strong signs of recovery in August with passenger numbers at 23,060 compared to 52,705 in August 2019, a decrease of 56%.
Meanwhile, car volumes from March 22 to August 31 were recorded at 15,104 which represented a 74% reduction on the 57,703 recorded in the same period in 2019.
In August, car numbers were at 7,989 compared to 13,469 in 2019, a reduction of 41%.
Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have held up strongly.
Freight lane meterage was recorded at 220,227 from March 22 to August 31, a 16% reduction year-on-year.
However, in August there was 49,211 lane metres recorded which is only a 5% reduction on the 51,816 recorded in the same month last year.
Since the beginning of travel restrictions in March, there have been a total of 10,696 cabins and 1,342 pods used, a reduction from 39,247 cabins and 11,120 pods in the same period of 2019.
These figures showed signs of recovery in August, with 4,520 cabins used compared to 8,072 in August last year.
Serco’s managing director of NorthLink Ferries Stuart Garrett said: “Since mid-July, we have seen volumes begin to increase and that trend has continued throughout August which is encouraging.”
Services are operating on their normal timetable, however passenger travel on the MV Helliar and MV Hildasay is currently suspended to ensure extra resilience is maintained on these lifeline freight services, ahead of the peak livestock carrying period.