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Pentland Ferries has been forced to review its operations and make some short-term changes to safeguard the service beyond the pandemic, following a 70% reduction in business.

Managing director of Pentland Ferries, Andrew Banks, said: “Since the pandemic started to impact on our business in March 2020, we have received government assistance to cover approximately 10% of operational outgoings. Meanwhile, our business has been reduced by approximately 70%. This has hit us very hard, particularly since we are not in receipt of the government subsidy that other transport operators enjoy.”

Services on the St Margaret’s Hope to Gills Bay route will be suspended for a week from Sunday 21 February, when MV Alfred will go into dry dock. The service will resume again on Sunday 28 February at 1130.

Andrew Banks continued: “We regret the suspension of service and apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused. The MV Alfred must go into drydock for annual surveys. We had planned to cover the MV Alfred’s absence with the MV Pentalina, but we have managed to negotiate a slight reduction in harbour fees for the MV Pentalina’s current berthing at Hatston Pier, which is subject to our not using the ship for business purposes for a three-month period. The harbour fees for the MV Pentalina have had a significant impact on our business throughout the pandemic and we simply cannot afford to lose the relief, which has been very difficult to obtain.”

In another cost-saving exercise, the Gills Bay office will be closed with effect from 1 January 2021 for one month, after which it will be reviewed.

“The purpose of this is to reduce costs and minimise staff exposure to the virus, during what is a particularly quiet period. During this time, all calls will be directed to our St Margaret’s Hope office customer services team, so there will be no impact on passenger service. We regret that there will be no indoor waiting or toilet facilities at Gills Bay during the closure.

“We are hopeful that by making these short-term business alterations now, we can safeguard the business through the coming months, and be ready to welcome passengers back on board safely, when conditions allow.

“We would like to thank everyone for their support during this incredibly difficult time and very much look forward to welcoming you back to our service during the better months to come.”