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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 19:49 GMT 20:49 UK
CalMac wins lifeline ferry contract
Calmac ferry
CalMac will build three new ferries for the service
P&O has lost the contract to run lifeline ferry services from the Scottish mainland to Orkney and Shetland.

The Scottish Executive has announced that the service will be run by Caledonian MacBrayne from summer 2002.

But the decision has prompted calls for steps to secure the future of P&O Scottish Ferries' 500-strong workforce in the north of Scotland.

The company been operating shipping services to the Northern Isles for more than 200 years.

However, Transport Minister Sarah Boyack announced on Thursday that it had lost out in the bidding process to NorthLink Orkney and Shetland Ferries.

This reply should bring to an end the uncertainty which has been hanging over Orkney and Shetland while the tender appraisal has dragged on

Tavish Scott, Shetland MSP
The joint venture between CalMac and the Royal Bank of Scotland will build three new ferries to handle the contract, which carries a public subsidy of more than 11m.

The announcement was made in response to a written question from Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, who said: "This reply should bring to an end the uncertainty which has been hanging over Orkney and Shetland while the tender appraisal has dragged on."

But the Liberal Democrat says steps must be taken to protect P&O's existing workforce.

"I understand that, for P&O's officers, crews and shore staff, the uncertainty remains," he said.

"I will be writing to NorthLink asking them to arrange a series of early meetings with the staff and their union representatives, to discuss their plans for staffing the new service.

'Early discussions'

"P&O staff's years of experience of the Northern North Sea and of the needs of Northern Isles customers is too valuable for NorthLink to let slip through their fingers.

"They must enter into early discussions about the transfer to their new service of the existing staff."

Ms Boyack said the executive was committed to maintaining lifeline services to the islands.

"We want to ensure that the links operate in the best interest of the islands and the islanders," she said.

Shetland shore
Ferries provide a vital link to the remote islands
"The contract will now be prepared for parliamentary approval, subject to satisfactory conclusion of final discussions in the next few weeks."

The tendering process for the subsidy agreement started in October 1998, with three companies asked to submit bids.

CalMac and the Royal Bank have promised a new and improved timetable, with more sailings and shorter journey times on the routes from Scrabster to Orkney and Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland.

CalMac managing director Captain John Simkins said: "We are extremely pleased to have been named as preferred bidder."

And the company said it was well advanced in talks with shipyards who have tendered for the contracts to build the three new ships.

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See also:

01 Sep 00 | Scotland
Fears voiced over ferry contract
10 Jul 00 | Scotland
Calmac prepares for routes 'auction'
27 Jun 00 | Scotland
Ferry officers back strikes
26 May 00 | Scotland
CalMac given morale warning
25 May 00 | UK
Ferry safety criticised
14 Jan 00 | Scotland
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