No cash back from Faroe

THE FAROESE government told Shetland Islands Council yesterday (Wednesday) that it could not help return its investment in Smyril Line.

In a letter, the Faroese prime minister Kaj Leo Johannesen told council convener Sandy Cluness that his government was only a minority share holder in the shipping company and was therefore unable to intervene in the day to day running of the business.

The response from Mr Johannesen follows a letter from Mr Cluness written in November when Shetland’s share in Smyril was devalued from £4.2 million to just over £1 million as part of a major restructuring of the company after heavy losses.

Mr Cluness told the Faroese prime minister that Shetland either wanted its original investment back or, preferably, see the ferry Norröna sailing to Shetland again.

In his letter, dated 29 January, Mr Johannesen said Faroe would have lost its roll-on, roll-off freight service, had the government not stepped in with a 30 per cent share in Smyril Line.

"This would most likely have meant that no passenger ship would have a regular route to the Faroes and our country would have effectively been cut off from the outside world in terms of ship-based passenger movement.

"It would also have severely crippled the transportation of goods, as the cargo system of roll-on and roll-off would no longer have been available to Faroese importers and exporters," he wrote.

Council convener Sandy Cluness said he could fully understand why the Faroese government had to step in to safeguard the Faroese lifeline, and added he was hopeful that in the future circumstances might become right again for the Norröna to call at Lerwick.

"I fully understood the steps the government had to take and the recognition that Smyril Line was a lifeline service to Faroe as NorthLink are to Shetland," he said.

Mr Cluness is likely to meet Mr Johannesen at the forthcoming Island Summit which is due to be held in Orkney later this year.