No Rosyth-Zeebrugge Service this year

THE PROPOSED freight service between Kristiansund, in Norway, Rosyth and Zeebrugge, in Belgium, will not commence in 2008 after it failed to receive EU funding in this year’s round of grant approvals. Preferred operator for the service, Shetland businessman John White, said he was disappointed by the decision but added that he was confident to have the service up and running by 2009. The decision by the European Commission will also have a knock on effect on Mr White’s plans to take over the Superfast ferry service between Rosyth and Zeebrugge after the operator is to pull out next week. The Norshukon Link project said this morning (Tuesday) that they had not secured Marco Polo funding because of a competition issue as Mr White was now planning to operate a freight as well as the discontinued Superfast ferry service. Norshukon is a partnership between the Norwegian Moregruppen, Shetland Development Trust, the Shetland transport partnership ZetTrans and the South East of Scotland transport partnership SEStran to provide a “Motorway of the Sea” ferry link from Norway into the Continent. Mr White, from West Burrafirth, was selected preferred operator of the service in April this year. He said: “I am very disappointed not to have succeeded this time round, however, I remain hopeful that a revised submission in January 2009 will be successful. “Our application, which was submitted in April, was made prior to the announcement by Superfast that they were withdrawing from the Rosyth-Zeebrugge route this month. Not being aware of their withdrawal at the time of our submission presented issues of competition, which we had to account for in our application. ”He added that a delay in the start of the service could bring about benefits as the new vessel that he was planning to introduce to the route at a later point would now be the vessel which he hopes to start the route with. “This vessel is larger and more efficient than the one that I would have used had we started this year so there is some benefit to be had from the delay.” SEStran chairman, councillor Russell Imrie, said: "We are naturally disappointed at the delay, but it was impossible to foresee that Superfast would withdraw from the Rosyth-Zeebrugge route. “This presents issues of competition, which John White could not account for in their application. The application will therefore be resubmitted in January, taking into account the new realities."One positive benefit of the delay is that John White will now be able to start the service with a bigger vessel. This means that tonnes more goods, which would otherwise have had to go by road, could now travel by sea, reducing the region's carbon footprint and cutting congestion on Scotland's roads. ”Chairman of Møregruppen, Rolf Kare Sether, one of the partners in NORSHUKON, added: “Like John White we are bitterly disappointed that we will not be seeing a service starting up this year. “We remain fully committed to the Project and the Project Partners will continue to support John as he prepares to resubmit his proposal in January.”