By Karrie Gillett
A NEW provider has been found for the ferry service linking Scotland to mainland Europe.
Dutch company Norfolkline has announced it will revive the Rosyth to Zeebrugge route for passengers and freight.
And the vessel will run three departures a week from the Fife base to the port in Belgium with a crossing time of 19 hours.
The announcement comes less than a week after Greek company Superfast ceased ferry journies from Rosyth blaming rising fuel costs and passenger numbers for the decision.
First Minister Alex Salmond said restarting the route would restore a hughely important international connection for Europe.
Speaking from the Forth Ports ferry terminal today, Mr Salmond said: “I think in what are generally difficult economic times its always even more important to have a thoroughly good news story.
“Securing the continuation of this service is a great success for Fife and for Scotland.
“It also has significant environmental benefits and removes around 1.4 million lorry miles from Scotland’s roads making an important contribution to tackling climate change.”
Mr Salmond added that securing the link next year was particularly signifcant in the year of Homecoming Scotland – as tourists will able to make use of bridging the land between Fife and Europe.
He said: “We intend to welcome Scots and friends of Scotland from around the globe.
“Therfore to have re-established this hugely important ferry route is particularly appropriate and particularly encouraging.”
Norfolkline said it would take until Spring next year before they would start the service while they find a suitable ferry.
But the company insisted they were committed to the service – even talking about bringing in a second vessel to provide a daily service at a later date.
Kell Robdrup, managing director of Norfolkline, said: “We understand the importance of this service to both passengers and freight customers in Scotland and the Continent.
“With the introduction of a brand new ferry, Norfolkline can provide a comfortable and environmentally friendly crossing.”
Previous operator Superfast had serviced the route for six years carrying one million passengers and 4.2 tonnes of freight.
But the Greek-owned company announced in May that it would terminate the line.
Charles Hammond, group chief executive of Forth Ports, said they were delighted to secure a new operator for the “vital” service.
He said: “There is a significant freight market that can be serviced by the Rosyth Ferry and Norfolkline’s experience coupled with the vessel’s freight capacity will help to fulfil this potential.”