Disappointment has been voiced that a freight ship will once again be used while Orkney ferry HM Hamnavoe is being refitted.
The freight ship Helliar will stand in on the Stromness to Scrabster route while the main ferry is in dry dock from January 13-26.
Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur wrote to the Scottish Government in October to highlight his concerns that a freight ship fails to meet the needs of passengers or the standards of a lifeline service.
He also sought assurances from Ministers that a more suitable vessel would be used during the forthcoming refit period, however has had no response to date.
Mr McArthur said: “It is deeply disappointing that islanders once again face arrangements during the refit period that fall short of what should be expected of a lifeline service.
“I have repeatedly stressed to Ministers the importance of having suitable cover on the Stromness-Scrabster route during the refit period. Last January, the Transport Secretary acknowledged that there was a problem with using a freight vessel as cover and agreed to assess the situation through the ferries review.
“Despite that assurance, inadequate provision has once again been put in place. Given that Ministers can’t even be bothered now to respond to correspondence on the issue, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government couldn’t care less.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston added: “While I appreciate that Northlink is undertaking this work at a relatively quiet time of year, it is disappointing that, yet again, it has not been able to substitute a suitable replacement vessel while the Hamnavoe is in dry dock.”
A spokesman for Northlink said: “The scheduled dry dock period has been designed to minimise disruption to customers and takes place during the quietest time of year for both passenger and freight shipments.”