NorthLink Ferries Privacy Policy

1. Introduction

This Privacy Policy (“Policy”) supplements our Conditions of Carriage, and any other documents referred to within.  Please read this Policy carefully as it contains important information on who we are, how and why we collect, store, use and share any personal information that you provided to us, whether through our website, by post, by telephone or mobile, in person (for example in booking office and on board), social media, through our apps or when you otherwise communicate with us. It also explains your rights in relation to your personal information and how to contact us or supervisory authorities in the event you have a complaint. If you have any questions or comments about this Policy, you can contact us by using the details set out below in section 13 (Data Protection Office) of this Policy.

2. Who we are

NorthLink Ferries (“NorthLink Ferries”, “we”, “us”) are operated by Serco Limited, a company incorporated in England and Wales with Company Number 00242246 and having its registered office at Serco House, 16 Bartley Wood Business Park, Bartley Way Hook, Hampshire, RG27 9UY.

NorthLink Ferries is committed to protecting your privacy. Below we explain how we use any passenger information and how we protect your privacy.

For the purpose of the Data Protection Act 2018 (the “Act”); any other applicable laws relating to the protection of personal data and the privacy of individuals (all as amended, updated or replaced from time to time); and this Policy, we are one of the data controllers (independent of Transport Scotland) of your personal data for the purpose of providing the NorthLink Ferries services. This means that when we process your personal data, we are responsible for looking after and protecting your data. We are registered as a data controller with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office and our registration number is Z574698.

Please note, our site may provide links to third party websites. NorthLink Ferries is not responsible for the conduct of third-party companies linked to the website and you should refer to the privacy notices of these third parties as to how and why they may handle your personal information.

3. Information we may collect from you

The personal data you provide to us or that are collected by us is used for service and operational purposes, for example making reservations, processing payments, producing tickets, fulfilling statutory requirement, protecting yourself and others. The types of personal data we may collect, store and use includes:

  • Your Personal Details: title, full name, age range, date of birth (where necessary for the delivery of the services), gender and/or sex, business or home address, telephone numbers, email address, nationality, marital status, vehicle details, travel assistance requirements.
  • Other Traveller(s) Details (e.g. people travelling with you or you are booking on behalf of): title, full name, age range, date of birth (where necessary for the delivery of the services), gender and/or sex, business or home address, telephone numbers, email address, nationality, marital status, vehicle details, travel assistance requirements.
  • Identifiers: signatures, social media identifiers, national concession, photographs, CCTV images and audio collected, registered weapon ownership information, voice recordings, video recordings (identifying physical characteristics) and any personal data collected through cookies.
  • Internal Identifiers: discount codes and vouchers, prize letter details, islander or friends and family number, booking reference or reservation numbers.
  • Financial Details: purchase transaction history, card payment details in accordance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS)
  • Travel Information: travel reservation and itinerary information.
  • Correspondence: responses to competitions, call logs, messages through live/web chat, promotions and surveys (some details of which may be anonymised), social media postings, general correspondence exchanges with us or feedback provided.
  • Preferences: consents, permissions, or preferences that you have specified, such as whether you wish to subscribe to our mailing list or agree to our terms and conditions.
  • Incident Reports: health and safety accidents, security or other incidents, 
  • Sensitive Personal Data: health and medical information, racial or ethnic origin, religion, philosophical beliefs.
  • IT details: your computer(s) unique identifier (e.g. IP Address), the date and time you accessed the website, your login information, browser type and version, time zone setting, browser plug-in types and versions, operating system and platform, alerts preferences, data collected through your access to, and use of, our live/web chat (e.g. unique identifiers to enable assisted browsing, and/or) public Wi-Fi service on vessels and in ports (your e-mail address, hardware device MAC address, and the date and time you connect to the WI-FI service). 

Please note, you do not have to provide your personal information to us. However, if you do not provide your personal information which we ask for we may not be able to: process a reservation for you; or provide our services to you; or respond to enquires that you may have.

NorthLink Ferries complies with the PCI DSS. We have in place robust controls surrounding the storage, transmission and processing of cardholder data that we handle.

Special Category and Sensitive Data

NorthLink Ferries does not systematically seek to collect, store or otherwise use special category personal data (for example information relating to your health or ethnicity), however we may on occasion handle such data where, for example, a passenger may: (i) require assistance for a disability; (ii) wish to declare specific medical conditions or dietary requirements; or (iii) share sensitive details in their communications with us.

Where special category personal information is involved, we will handle that information in accordance with applicable laws, including where:

  • we have your explicit consent, including where you voluntarily provide us with that information; 
  • the law permits us to do so to comply with our legal obligations or to exercise specific legal rights;
  • you have clearly made the sensitive personal information public;
  • processing is necessary for the establishment, exercise or defense of legal claims; or
  • processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest.

Children’s data

Our services may be booked directly and used by individuals aged 16 years or over. However, we do not directly or knowingly collect or solicit personal information directly from anyone under the age of 16 or knowingly allow such persons to provide us with their personal information without parent or guardian consent. Parent, school and tours (or equivalent) may book to travel with us and may provide limited information about the children travelling with their group.

If you are under 16, do not send any information about yourself to us, including your name, address, telephone numbers, or email address, unless you have your parent’s or guardian’s permission. In the event we learn that we have collected personal information from anyone under the age of 16, and do not have a parent or guardian’s consent, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. In the event that we do hold personal data about children, we will handle that data in accordance with the terms of this Privacy Policy.

4. How we collect the personal data

The circumstances in which we may collect personal data about you includes when:

  • the personal data is provided to us by you (e.g. when you agree to sign up to join our mailing list or enter a competition or contact us via live/web chat);
  • the personal data is collected in the normal course of our relationship with you (e.g. when you are booking to travel with us via telephone, on the website or using our mobile application, registering for Islander Scheme);
  • the personal data has been made public by you (e.g. contacting NorthLink Ferries via a social media platform) or obtained from a publicly accessible source (e.g. Companies House);
  • the personal data is received by us from third parties (e.g. third-party booking websites, from your employer, tour group operators, external travel agents, credit reference agencies, advertising networks, government agency (such as Transport Scotland));
  • the personal data is collected via our IT systems, such as:
    • automated monitoring of our website, on-board Wi-Fi services and other technical systems including our computer networks and connections;
    • CCTVs that operate in our terminals, freight yards and on our vessels;
    • email, instant messaging systems and feedback applications;
    • cookies (please refer to the section below for further information); and
    • the call recording system for calls received into our Customer Service Centre.
  • The personal data is created by us, such as records of your communications with NorthLink Ferries.

5. How and why we will use your personal information

We will only collect, use and share your personal information where we are satisfied that we have an appropriate legal basis to do so. The purposes for which we may use your personal data and the legal basis on which we may perform such processing are set out below.

Where necessary to the performance of a contract with you, or take steps linked to a contract

  • To provide the services or information that you have requested from us (e.g. processing or resolving your reservation, handle operational issues or engagement with customer services etc.).
  • To exercise our legal rights with respect to our contract with you.

Where you give us consent

  • To process your information. For example, consent to receive promotional materials, or consent to shadow your screen and view our website in order to provide you with any necessary accessibility assistance/guidance.

For purposes which are required by law

  • In response to requests from government law enforcement authorities conducting an investigation.
  • Other processing necessary to comply with professional, legal and regulatory obligations that apply to our business e.g. register of passengers identity under the Merchant Shipping (counting and Registration of Persons on Board Passenger Ships) Regulations 1999, health and safety obligation and requirements to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our workers and our customers (and any third parties) including where necessary for the purpose of safeguarding against the impact of a health-related issue (for example, coronavirus or some other pandemic or disease or outbreak), in respect of any measures we are required to take from time to time during a national or international emergency, or in the framework of maritime regulations.

Where necessary for Serco’s or third parties legitimate interests and where the interests are not overridden by your data protection rights, such as:

  • To manage, facilitate and/or improve the provision of our services to you, including but not limited to administering our website; managing enquiries, complaints and feedbacks; investigating, preventing and detecting fraud against you or NorthLink Ferries.
  • For Marine Safety (e.g. smoking detection); health and safety purposes; or security purposes, such as preventing unauthorised access and modifications to systems and protecting our workers, premises and vehicles with the use of CCTV, call recording and barred travel lists.
  • For business development, management and analysis or quality assurance purposes such as improving efficiency, training and quality control of our products and services including by reviewing call recordings for training or quality purposes.
  • For accounting and auditing purposes.
  • For research, marketing or promotional purposes, for instance, promotion of our services via by email, telephone, social media, post or in person or otherwise that might be of interest to you.
  • To support business and administrative functions of the business and/or ensure business policies are adhered to.
  • To meet our contractual obligations under the NorthLink Ferries contract with the Scottish public authority (e.g. delivery of services commissioned by, or feedbacks/complaints etc. to, the Transport Scotland).
  • To prevent, investigate, detect and/or report fraud, misrepresentation, security incidents, crime and other related matters.
  • In connection with a business transaction such as merger, restructuring or sale of the business.
  • For legal claims, compliance, regulatory and investigative purposes as may be necessary (including disclosure of such information in connection with legal process or litigation or meeting Public Health Scotland’s requirement).

6. Cookies

We use cookies on our site. Cookies are small text files that are downloaded onto your device when you visit a website. Our website uses cookies to distinguish you from other users of our website. This helps us to provide you with a good experience when you browse our website and also allows us to improve our website. For detailed information on the cookies we use and the purposes for which we use them, please see our Cookie policy.

7. Direct Marketing

We may use your personal information to send you updates (by email, text message, telephone or post) about our services including e-newsletters, exclusive offers, events, promotions or products that we believe will be of interest to you where you have consented to such communication.

You can subscribe to our marketing list by selecting the option to receive marketing communications when booking on our website.

We will always treat your personal information with the utmost respect and never sell your information or share with other organisations without your prior permission for marketing purposes. We will take steps to limit direct marketing to a reasonable and proportionate level and only send you communications which we believe may be of interest or relevance to you.

You have the right to opt out of receiving marketing communications by:

  • using the unsubscribe option included on all NorthLink Ferries marketing correspondence or
  • sending us an email to [email protected]. Please ensure you correspondence is marked ‘Unsubscribe: Marketing Contact List’ and include your full name, email and telephone number to ensure your details are fully deleted from our direct marketing system.

If you choose not to receive updates about our services, we will be unable to keep you informed of any new products, exclusive offers, events or promotions that may interest you.


We currently have closed circuit television (CCTV) operating in our terminals, freight yards and on our vessels for (but not limited to): (i) public and worker health and safety; (ii) security; and (iii) crime prevention and detection. For these reasons, the information processed may include visual images of personal appearance and behaviours, and in certain circumstances various sound recordings of workers, passengers and general members of the public who were in the immediate vicinity of the area under surveillance.

We display signs to inform visitors and workers that they are under surveillance and there may be video and/or sound recording in operation. This information is kept in secure environments and access is restricted to NorthLink Ferries designated workers.

9. Sharing Your Personal Information with Others

We will only disclose personal information to a third party in very limited circumstances, or where we are permitted or required to do so by law. The third parties to whom we provide your personal data include:

  • other organisations within the Serco group of companies, where such disclosure is necessary to provide you with our services or to manage our business;
  • the Scottish Ministers, including for the purposes of contract management review which includes sharing accident reports and details about correspondence received.  
  • third parties we use to help deliver our products and services to you (e.g. banks and payment providers);
  • other third parties we use to help us run our business (e.g. marketing agencies, IT support service providers, port operators, analysis experts, communication platform providers);
  • third parties approved by you (e.g. when you request your details to be transferred);
  • our professional advisers (e.g. law firms, insurers and brokers); and/or
  • Government, regulatory and law enforcement bodies (e.g. Police Scotland, organisations under Public Health Scotland or other public authorities) where we are required in order:
    • to comply with our legal obligations (e.g. the register of passengers in accordance with the Merchant Shipping (counting and Registration of Persons on Board Passenger Ships) Regulations 1999);
    • to exercise our legal rights (e.g. pursue or defend a claim); and
    • for the prevention, detection and investigation of crime.

We may transfer your personal information to third parties in connection with a reorganisation, restructuring, merger, acquisition, sale or transfer of assets, or in the event there is a change of operator for NorthLink Ferries or in the event that there is a hand back of the operation to the customer (Transport Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Ministers). In such cases, we will take the appropriate steps to make sure that such transfer is in accordance with the applicable data protection law(s).

Less commonly, we may process and share your personal data where it is needed to protect your interests (or someone else’s interests) and you are not capable of giving your consent.

We also impose data protection obligations on contracted third parties to ensure they can only use your data when providing services to NorthLink Ferries for the purposes listed above.  These third parties cannot pass your details on to any other parties unless instructed to by NorthLink Ferries. 

Transferring Your Personal Information Globally

The personal information that we collect from you may be transferred to, and stored at, a destination outside the European Economic Area (“EEA”) (for example, in the USA). It may also be processed by workers operating outside the EEA who work for us or for one of our service providers or we may share personal information with other companies within Serco Group located outside the EEA.

In the event, your personal information may need to be transferred outside of the EEA, we will take appropriate steps to ensure that transfers of personal data are in accordance with applicable law(s) and carefully managed to protect your privacy rights and interests and transfers are limited to countries which are recognised as providing an adequate level of legal protection, or where we are satisfied that alternative arrangements are in place to protect your privacy rights.  Our standard practice when transferring personal data outside the EEA is to:

  • Put in place binding corporate agreements, which will include the relevant adopted standard contractual clauses for transferring personal information outside the EEA, to ensure that your information is safeguarded.
  • Ensure that the country in which your personal information will be handled has been recognised as providing an adequate level of legal protection, or where we are satisfied that alternative arrangements are in place to protect your privacy rights.
  • Carefully validate any requests for information from law enforcement or regulators before disclosing the information.

We will co-operate with any regulators as required by law to ensure that we remain transparent about the way we handle your personal information.

10. Security of Your Personal Information

NorthLink Ferries takes precautions including administrative, technical and physical measures to safeguard your personal information against loss, theft and misuse, as well as against unauthorised access, modification, disclosure, alteration and destruction.  We protect personal data using a variety of security measures including (but not limited to): password protected access; data back-up; encryption; firewalls; and secure storage facility with appropriate security restrictions.

Unfortunately, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our site; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features to try to prevent unauthorised access.

Please ensure that any passwords which you are given or created by you to access our services are kept secure and safe.

11. How Long We Keep Your Personal Information

We will store your personal information for as long as is reasonably necessary for the purposes for which it was collected, as explained in this Privacy Policy. Where your information is no longer needed, we will ensure that it is disposed of in a secure manner. If you would like further details about our retention policies, please email us at [email protected]

Listed below are the general criteria we use to determine how long we will keep your personal information, where upon we will either delete or anonymise the data:

  • We will continue to keep your personal information while we are providing goods and services, or if we have an ongoing relationship with you (e.g. you hold an account with us, we are delivering a contract, you are a supplier to us or you have an ongoing complaint).
  • We retain CCTV recordings centrally for up to 30 days, and for a longer period if they are relevant to an incident, complaint, investigation, legal proceedings or for as long as legally required by regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies.
  • We retain call recordings and any live/web chats for no longer than 12 to 13 months from the date of their recording unless there is a relevant to an incident, complaint, investigation, legal proceedings or legal obligation which requires us to retain the recording for longer.
  • We will retain purchase orders, invoices and receipts for six (6) years (where the information is no longer needed or the six (6) years have passed, we will ensure that it is disposed of in a secure manner).
  • We will retain contracts for a minimum of six (6) years (unless it is required for a longer period)
  • We will retain general correspondence and papers (including emails) received by us (excluding complaints and investigations) for 6 years.
  • Our register of feedback, complaints and investigations are reviewed every 6 years.
  • Images and messages provided by you on our social media feed with be kept until you ask for them to be deleted.
  • Where applicable, your IP address is kept in accordance with your cookie preferences (for further information on our cookie policy, please see section 6).

In some circumstances we may store your personal information for longer periods of time, for instance where we are required to do so in accordance with contractual, legal, regulatory, tax and/or accounting requirements.

You have legal rights in connection with personal information.Under certain circumstances, by law you have the right to:

  • Request access to your personal information (commonly known as a “data subject access request”). This enables you to receive a copy of the personal information we hold about you and to check that we are lawfully processing it.
  • Request correction of the personal information that we hold about you. This enables you to have any incomplete or inaccurate information we hold about you corrected.
  • Portability of the personal information you provided us, in certain situations.
  • Request erasure of your personal information. This enables you to ask us to delete or remove personal information where there is no good reason for us continuing to process it. You also have the right to ask us to delete or remove your personal information where you have exercised your right to object to processing.
  • Object to processing of your personal information by us or on our behalf for direct marketing (including profiling) and in certain other situations (such as processing carried out for legitimate interests).
  • Request the restriction of processing of your personal information. This enables you to ask us to suspend the processing of personal information about you, for example if you want us to establish its accuracy or the reason for processing it.
  • Request the transfer of your personal information to another party.
  • Withdraw consent to processing where the legal basis for processing is solely justified on the grounds of consent (please refer to section 7 for details about withdrawing consent to marketing).

Please note, to ensure security of personal information, we may ask you to verify your identity before proceeding with any such request. We may also charge a fee where permitted by law, for instance if your request is manifestly unfounded or excessive.

If you would like to exercise any of these rights, please submit your requests to the Data Protection Office as detailed below. Subject to legal and other permissible considerations, we will make every effort to honour your request promptly to inform you if we require further information in order to fulfil your request. We may not always be able to fully address your request, for example if it would impact the duty of confidentiality we have to others, or if we are legally entitled to deal with the request in a different way.

13. Data Protection Office

We have appointed a Data Protection Officer (DPO) to oversee compliance with this Privacy Policy. If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy or how we handle your personal information, please address to: 

Data Protection Officer
Serco Ltd
Enterprise House
18 Bartley Wood Business Park
Bartley Way
RG27 9XB

Alternatively, please email [email protected] or call +44 (0)1256 745900.

14. Complaints

We ask that you please first attempt to resolve any issues or concerns with us first, although you have a right to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at any time and file a complaint where you believe there have been an infringement of data protection laws. 

The contact details for the ICO are available at: or via telephone: 0303 123 1113. The Information Commissioner’s Office will then investigate your complaint accordingly.

15. Changes to this Policy

We may amend this Policy from time to time to keep it up to date with legal requirements and the way we operate our business. Please regularly check this page for the latest version of this Policy. If we change this Policy, we will post the details of the changes on this page. Any changes will be effective when posted and your continued use of this site will indicate your acceptance of these changes. If we make significant changes to this Policy, we may notify you of these via our home page or by email and/or post.

This Policy was last reviewed and updated in June 2021.

Header image: Scrabster harbour and MV Hamnavoe photo © Copyright Justin Merrigan