Investigation under way after ferry runs aground on Orkney

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An investigation is under way after a ferry ran aground on Orkney, leading to the evacuation of 60 passengers.

The MV Pentalina is now being surveyed to establish the extent of any damage following the incident on Saturday night.

RNLI vessels went to the scene after the ferry issued a mayday message off Orkney on Saturday night, with smoke reported in the engine room.

Pentland Ferries said smoke was detected in the engine room before the Pentalina became grounded off the village of St Margaret’s Hope.

It was later refloated and moored at a nearby pier.

Helen Inkster, managing director of Pentland Ferries, said: “Our first priority was the safety of our passengers and we can confirm that all are safe and well.

“All were transferred from the vessel to the lifeboats and then taken to the Cromarty Hall in St Margaret’s Hope, before going home or to their accommodation.”

She thanked those who helped with the operation, saying: “The vessel was moved from the beach to the linkspan at 6.30 this morning and is now undergoing a survey, from which we will know what (if any) damage has been sustained.

“Only when we know the extent of the problem, can we formulate a plan to resume service.

“The Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) is conducting a survey and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch are expected to arrive on Tuesday.

“We understand the impact this will have on the local community and those with travel plans.”

MV Pentalina
The MV Pentalina serves the route from the mainland to Orkney (Alamy/PA)

There are no signs of any pollution resulting from the incident.

The Pentalina returned to service earlier this week to allow another ferry, the MV Alfred, to service CalMac routes on the west coast of Scotland.

An RMT union spokesman said: “A thorough investigation will be needed to establish how this major incident aboard the Pentland Ferries vessel occurred.”

Local politicians are calling for answers from the Scottish Government over what the incident means for ferry users in Orkney.

Scottish Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston, who is from Orkney, said the incident exposes the “pitiful lack of resilience in Scotland’s ferry network”.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said there are important questions for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to answer, as he said it had recently inspected and certified the Pentalina as fit for service.

He added: “Answers are required too from the Scottish Government, whose failure to procure new ferries in a timely fashion has left services both in the north and on the west coast extremely vulnerable. As a result islanders and island communities are left paying the price.”

An MCA spokesperson said: “The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, in conjunction with the vessel’s classification society, completed surveys on the vessel Pentalina on April 18 and issued a passenger ship safety certificate; at this time the vessel met the standards required for issue of this certificate.

“Surveyors from the MCA will be attending the vessel today (Sunday) in St Margaret’s Hope to undertake initial fact-finding to establish the cause and circumstances surrounding the incident which occurred on the evening of April 29.

“While the facts haven’t been established yet, initial reports from the operator point to the cause of the grounding being a sudden mechanical failure.”

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