Serco NorthLink Ferries continues to provide essential travel

Thursday 11th June 2020

Serco NorthLink Ferries is continuing to provide key worker travel as well as essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland.

Between 22 March, when a revised service was introduced, and the end of May, passenger volumes have significantly reduced as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and reflect the effectiveness of the application of the Scottish Government’s lockdown criteria.

Passenger numbers across all routes this year, for the period 22 March to 31 May were 3,541 in comparison to 69,458 over the same period in 2019. This is a reduction of 95 per cent.

Vehicles were recorded at 1,368 – a reduction from 18,602 in 2019 (93 per cent). Freight volumes, which provide essential inward supplies and services as well as outward exports, have held up strongly however recorded an overall reduction of freight meterage of 27,173 since 22 March – a 24 per cent reduction compared to the same period last year.

More than 9,400 (9,413) bookings have been cancelled to date during the COVID-19 lockdown period resulting in a reduction of 31,208 passengers across all services. This has led to over £3.8m refunds being processed.

Stuart Garrett, Serco’s Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said: “We are currently running an essential lifeline service between the Scottish Mainland and Orkney and Shetland and so it was expected that we would see a steep decline in numbers.

“We’re thanking passengers for their understanding and co-operation at this time and do remind them that by staying at home they are helping to keep themselves and others safe.”

To date, 50 passengers have been refused travel on NorthLink Ferries’ vessels during lockdown. The company is challenging passengers and denying boarding unless they are able to demonstrate that they meet the criteria of a key worker or an islander with a need to travel.

If and when it is announced that non-essential travel can begin between the Scottish mainland and Northern Isles, then passengers who have had their booking suspended can re-book. Travel during this time will likely involve restrictions including physical distancing and continued screening of passengers, with reasons for travel potentially curtailed to support passenger volumes.

Details of the revised timetable and permitted reasons for travel can be found at or by calling 08001114422 (free from UK landlines and mobiles).