Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 17:44 UK

Dutch ferry operator for Rosyth

The Superfast Ferry
Superfast ferries operated from Rosyth for six years

Dutch ferry company Norfolkline is to revive the Rosyth to Zeebrugge route, with the service starting up again in the spring, it has been confirmed.

Part of the Danish Maersk group, it will operate a passenger and freight service using a new vessel.

First Minister Alex Salmond visited the Fife port on Thursday, less than a week after the Greek operator Superfast finally ceased operations.

Superfast Ferries announced in May it was pulling out of Rosyth.

The Greece-based company, which had run the service for six years, said it would end in mid-September and blamed fuel costs and passenger numbers for the decision.

Securing the continuation of this service is a real success story and hugely important to Scotland's economy
Alex Salmond
First Minister

The service saved passengers and truckers having to drive via Hull or the English Channel ports.

The Scottish Government said it was "very disappointed" to lose the service and pledged to seek an alternative operator.

On Thursday, Mr Salmond unveiled the new operator for the route.

He said: "Securing the continuation of this service is a real success story and hugely important to Scotland's economy.

"We have worked closely with Forth Ports to ensure Scotland maintains a direct ferry link to Europe and I am delighted to announce today that Norfolkline will now operate the Rosyth-Zeebrugge route."

Mr Salmond stressed the importance of having secured a new operator, and added: "Maintaining connections with major European markets is vital for Scotland at a time of global economic challenges.

"In the six years this route has been operating, it has carried nearly one million passengers, 4.2 million tonnes of freight and in 2005 generated around 3.4m of tourism expenditure in Scotland.

"And of course by removing 1.38 million lorry miles from Scotland's roads it is an important contribution to the fight against climate change."

'Vital transport'

He added: "I have no doubt that Norfolkline will build on the success of this established ferry route.

"The partnership with Forth Ports has averted the loss of this vital transport link and instead given the many passengers, tourists and businesses who use this service the reassurance to plan ahead with confidence.

"I wish Norfolkline, Forth Ports, freight operators and the many passengers who will sail the Rosyth-Zeebrugge route, the very best."

Kell Robdrup, the managing director of Norfolkline, said: "I am very happy to announce that Norfolkline will revive the Rosyth-Zeebrugge service starting next Spring.

"Norfolkline will run a passenger and freight service with three departures from each port every week. With the introduction of a brand new ferry, we hope to provide a comfortable and environmentally friendly crossing to our customers."

Russell Imrie, South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (Sestran) chairman, said: "Sestran believes that a direct ferry link between Rosyth and Zeebrugge is vital to the future development of the south east of Scotland.

"We are very relieved that a new operator has been found to run this important route. If the service had ended it would have had serious consequences for the region's economy, as travellers and freight companies sought access to ferry services elsewhere."

Under the waterborne freight grant, a Scottish Government-administered scheme, up to two million euros would be available to Norfolkline, subject to the criteria for the grant being fulfilled.

However, Norfolkline has not made a request for funding at the moment, and said it was running the service from "a robust commercial base".

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