It was a brutal old day yesterday (Sunday), with 80mph winds and enormous seas crashing onto the Zetlandics. With an offshore wind, the top of the cliffs at Eshaness was no place to venture from the car, or even stay for long. A Citroen C4 was probably safe enough, but I wouldn't like to have been there in a 2CV...
By the time the Hrossey was on her way north from Orkney, early this morning, things had moderated quite a bit. So it was a surprise when news began filtering through of a major car-deck incident at 6.00am. Turns out a sand trailer which had been loaded in Orkney had tumbled over, crushing five cars. Nobody was hurt.
Sea conditions at the time were described as 'moderate'. This comes less than a week after two men were injured after the same ferry rolled unexpectedly and in January the Hrossey and the Hjaltland were both damaged by heavy seas.
The 180-odd-mile trip from Aberdeen to Shetland, twice a week via Orkney, is the longest ferry trip in UK waters and one of the most exposed. Still, NorthLink, operators of the route, is not having its troubles to seek.
Nobody is suggesting the two vessels used on the route are unsafe, but there seems little doubt now that they are less than ideal for purpose. They're flat-bottomed luxury skips that, by general consensus, cannot cope with the kind of weather regularly dealt with by the veteran ex-Baltic boats used by former operators P&O.
NorthLink are easy to deal with and onboard service is good. But this is not just a tourist route. It's a lifeline commercial service. We deserve better.