Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Zeebrugge ferry to restart in May

The Superfast Ferry
Superfast ferries operated from Rosyth for six years

Scotland's only ferry link to the continent will resume in May next year, it has been announced.

Ship operator Norfolkline took on the Rosyth to Zeebrugge service after the Greek operator Superfast finally ceased operations in September.

A booking service has now been set up and the ferry is due to sail three times a week each way from 18 May.

Superfast, which had run the service for six years, blamed fuel costs and passenger numbers for the decision.

Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said the link would help boost tourist numbers in next year's Homecoming celebrations, a series of events designed to bring Scots back to the country from across the world.

It comes at a time when every effort should be made to encourage economic activity
Charles Hammond
Forth Ports
"Maintaining connections with major European markets is vital for Scotland, particularly during these challenging economic times," he said.

"In the six years this route has been operating, it has carried nearly one million passengers, 4.2 million tonnes of freight and made a significant contribution to Scotland's tourist industry."

The last operator announced in May that it would sail for the last time on 13 September.

Norfolkline, which is part of the Danish Maersk group, said its ship will depart from Zeebrugge in Belgium every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from Rosyth in Fife every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Charles Hammond, group chief executive at Forth Ports, said: "It comes at a time when every effort should be made to encourage economic activity.

"With a direct ferry link, Scotland can once again promote its world renowned tourism centres to a much wider audience, while hauliers can look forward to reduced transport costs and faster access to continental markets."

Norfolkline is constructing a new ship for the route. Facilities on board will include 109 en-suite cabins, a bar, restaurant, wide screen cinema, on-board shop and children's play area.

Denise Hill, head of international marketing for tourist agency VisitScotland, said: "We are delighted to be working with Norfolkline to promote their Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry service to ensure that these travellers continue to exploit the opportunity of a direct crossing and maximise the number of nights they spend within our borders."

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