Dutch group aims to take on Rosyth route

A DUTCH ferry operator is considering taking over mainland Scotland's only European ferry link, The Scotsman has learned.

Norfolkline has confirmed its interest in filling the gap left when Superfast ends sailings between Rosyth and Zeebrugge on Saturday.

The Maersk Group firm is seeking a suitable vessel for the Rosyth route, which has carried nearly a million passengers and 200,000 freight units since its launch in 2002.

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Norfolkline operates between Liverpool and Belfast and Dublin, and Dover-Dunkirk. It also runs one of Scotland's largest salmon and seafood distribution centres, at Larkhall in Lanarkshire.

Superfast announced in May that it was axing the Rosyth route, where it halved sailings from nightly to thrice weekly in 2005. The Greek firm blamed high fuel prices and the weakness of the pound against the euro for the decision.

No timescale has been announced for a replacement operator, but a break in service is thought inevitable. The Scotsman revealed last week that at least six staff employed by the Denholm Group, the Rosyth port agent, were being made redundant. Ten Superfast posts are also going.

Kell Robdrup, the managing director of Norfolkline Shipping, said: "At this stage we are looking at the route. We will take a decision shortly.

"It depends on whether a potential vessel is available, in a very difficult market."

Robdrup said agreements with port operators and suppliers were also needed.

The Scottish Government has said "constructive discussions" were continuing with several potential operators.

John Swinney, the finance secretary, told MSPs yesterday there were "enormous challenges" in securing a new operator.

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