Hamnavoe passing Hoy in Orkney

Coronavirus – COVID-19

Important information for passengers – reviewed @ 10:00hrs 11th May 2020

NorthLink Ferries urge passengers to stay home unless travel is absolutely essential

Following a briefing on 10th May 2020, the Scottish Government guidelines regarding COVID-19 remain in place. The single most important action we can all take, in fighting Coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

Serco NorthLink Ferries are currently running an essential lifeline service between the Scottish Mainland and Orkney and Shetland. During the current lockdown, we would advise passengers against travelling to help to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

Please don’t travel, stay at home and help to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

NorthLink Ferries are currently refusing all but the most essential travel.

Passengers are able to cancel or amend existing travel plans by contacting NorthLink Ferries on 0845 6000 449 or 01856 885500 or by emailing reservations@northlinkferries.co.uk

We would like to thank our passengers for their understanding and co-operation at this time and look forward to welcoming you back on board in the future. Please stay safe and well and again, please do not travel unless you have an absolute need to do so.

We are sure that you will be aware of the changing guidelines being issued from the Government on the COVID-19 outbreak. These are unprecedented times for our industry, our country and the world.

The latest update contains important information for users of our services, specifically:

  • Following a public statement from the First Minister on Sunday 22nd March 2020 and a further statement on Tuesday 14th April  2020 regarding travel we have made some changes to the way people book, and indeed who can travel. The First Minister stated, ‘from now on ferries will be for those who live on our islands, who have an essential need to travel to or from the mainland and for essential supplies or business.’ Nothing else.
  • Our passenger and freight vessel services are currently continuing as per our revised timetable, but web bookings have been suspended.
  • All bookings are suspended – anyone seeking to travel and complying with the criteria for travel will be asked to comply with these requirements and book at the port of departure on the day of travel.
  • Only if a prospective traveller can evidence that they are either an island resident, a key worker or travelling to provide support to family members will they be sold a ticket and permitted to travel.
    • For residents that evidence could be a recent utility bill plus photo ID or Islander Card.
    • For returning students, that evidence would be a valid student ID plus travel with an Islander or evidence of island residency.
    • For a key worker that is someone who need access to the islands in the course of their business. Each local authority has a list of key workers.
  • Those with existing bookings may be able to travel but customers will be informed that we will decline travel for recreational or social purposes.
  • You will be challenged on the reason for your travel.
  • Customers are advised that if travelling to the islands that we cannot guarantee return travel.
  • In these challenging times inevitably our normal service offering has been suspended:
    • The on board bars are closed and a reduced food and drink service will be available.
    • The cinema, Magnus’ Lounge, on board shop, Hamnavoe B&B and car valet service have been suspended.
  • We remind our passengers to practice physical distancing on board and please adhere to hand washing guidelines at all times.

We hope that it is not too long before we are welcoming visitors to the Orkney and Shetland Islands again.

The COVID-19 outbreak presents significant challenges for many, but we wanted to reassure you that NorthLink Ferries are taking all necessary precautions, both ashore and onboard our vessels to limit any potential impact on operations. Our timetable remains as published, our services offerings onboard each vessel will continue be reviewed to reflect changing passenger demand and our intention to comply with NHS and Public Health guidance.

What are we doing:

  • There will be new physical distancing markings, barriers and signs in our terminals and on board our ships.
  • Physical distancing requirements are in force at all our terminals and on board our ships.
  • We have been working closely with the Government and National Health Service professionals and are following all guidance issued as it affects us.
  • We plan for and practice for such events on a regular basis as part of our business continuity regime, current developments however have required us to translate these plans into action and we have been active in managing this risk since late January.
  • Extra hand sanitation points have been installed these are located throughout the passenger areas and in NorthLink Terminals.
  • We are taking a pro-active approach in undertaking extra cleaning and sanitation in our terminals and on board our vessels, so you are likely to see staff and crew carrying out extra cleaning duties during your visit and crossing with NorthLink Ferries.
  • We will continue to liaise with our key haulier contacts to ensure we have full visibility on any changing trends or demands for freight both to or from both Shetland and Orkney.

Your responsibilities:

  • We would ask all passengers to follow the latest Government and NHS advice, please visit https://www.nhsinform.scot/ with particular reference to Hand Hygiene, Respiratory Etiquette and practice Physical Distancing.
  • Due to updated Government guidance you will now be asked prior to checking in if you have a new, continuous cough or a high temperature. If so, travel will be refused.
  • You should not be travelling unless you fall into an eligible category, even then if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 you should not be travelling. You should self-isolate and follow the NHS guidance found on https://www.nhsinform.scot/

Passengers authorised to travel will be expected to exercise a common-sense approach to interaction with fellow passengers and our staff both ashore and onboard.

Government advice changes according to latest developments and you should ensure you are aware of and adhere to any advice given by the authorities or by the Ships Master or crew whilst on-board any of our ships.


We know you may have more questions, so please visit www.northlinkferries.co.uk which is constantly being updated with the very latest information and advice.

If you have a booking with NorthLink Ferries you will have been asked for your contact details. We may use these to keep you informed of any specific developments which might affect your journey.

We fully understand that many of our customers given this updated guidance may need to cancel existing travel plans. Please contact us on 0845 6000 449 or 01856 885500 or email reservations@northlinkferries.co.uk. Our call centre is manned 7 days a week from 08:00hrs to 20:00hrs.

Our published cancellation and refunds policy can be found on the terms and conditions webpage. However, in practice we’ve always been flexible regarding this arrangement and give customer refunds without penalty up to the point of the date of travel; except where the customer has failed to check in or notify us of their intention not to travel.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact: info@northlinkferries.co.uk.

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