Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 11:23 UK

'Interest' in axed ferry service

The Superfast Ferry
The ferry first sailed in 2002

"Encouraging" signs of interest have been shown in taking over a ferry link between Scotland and Belgium, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has said.

He was speaking after confirmation that Superfast Ferries is to abandon the route between Rosyth and Zeebrugge.

Superfast's parent company, Attica, has blamed rising fuel costs, the strength of the pound and falling passenger numbers for its decision.

But Mr Stevenson told BBC Scotland the route remained viable.

Operator Superfast ferries announced on Wednesday that it would sail for the last time on 13 September.

I think there's signs, early encouraging signs, of interest elsewhere and we're going to do everything we can to support Forth Ports in ensuring we get a replacement operator
Stewart Stevenson
Transport Minister

Mr Stevenson said he had held discussions with its parent firm, the Attica Group.

"We are supporting Forth Ports' efforts to engage a range of other ferry companies and consultancies to see what options there may be," he told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme.

"Attica themselves are saying this could be a profitable route and I'm listening very carefully to what Forth Ports have said that this could easily attract 60,000 freight units a year in a market place of 200,000-250,000.

"This ought to be a very attractive option for some of the other ferry operators that there are."

'Successful route'

Attica's interests are largely based in the Mediterranean and the Aegean, he said, adding this the Rosyth route was an "outlying service" for the firm.

"It is bitterly disappointing after many years of successful operation of the route," the minister added.

"But I think there's signs, early encouraging signs, of interest elsewhere and we're going to do everything we can to support Forth Ports in ensuring we get a replacement operator."

The firm, which operates a total of four ferries, also runs services between Greece and Italy.

Labour politicians in Fife said they were "devastated" by the news and called on First Minister Alex Salmond to take urgent action.


SEE ALSO
Ferry firm to axe Rosyth service
28 May 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Ferry service needs more freight
16 May 03 |  Scotland
New ferry link makes waves
17 May 02 |  Scotland
Smuggling concern over ferry route
16 May 02 |  Scotland
Euro ferry docks on the Forth
11 May 01 |  Scotland

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