Ferry procurement update

Details of the next contract to operate the Northern Isles Ferry Services have been published, but the procurement is facing a legal challenge from a commercial operator.

The Invitation to Tender document, which is now available on the Transport Scotland website, was issued to three potential bidders last month:

  • CalMac Ferries Ltd
  • Förde Reederei Seetouristik GmbH & Co. KG (FRS)
  • Serco NorthLink Ltd

Final tenders are currently scheduled to be submitted by the end of April 2019, with a view to awarding the contract in August 2019. The eight year contract is estimated to be worth around £370m.

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, said:

“We can now publish details of the next contract to operate the ferry services to and from the Northern Isles.

“The documents outline the in-built flexibility of the contract, allowing the services to be amended to reflect future changes in demand across the important sectors of the islands’ economies – tourism, fishing, food and drink, aquaculture and farming.

“Scottish Ministers will retain control of all of important issues, such as fares, timetables and routes to be served, through the public service contract. The services are being tendered as a single bundle.”

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee has also been advised that Pentland Ferries has lodged a Petition for Judicial Review of Scottish Ministers’ decision to subsidise the provision of public services in relation to Northern Isles Ferry Services. The company has also lodged a related complaint with the European Commission.

Commenting on the legal challenge, Mr Wheelhouse said:

“There is a limit to what I can say at this juncture, out of respect for the Judicial Review process, other than to say that we will robustly defend our position in relation to the continued provision of subsidy in support of these lifeline ferry services. The procurement process will continue as planned, pending the outcome of the Judicial Review and complaint to the European Commission.”

Published 21 Feb 2019