Sailing is a family affair with Pentland Ferries

Sandra Speares asks Kathryn Scollie about Pentland Ferries’ essential service, which links St Margaret’s Hope in Orkney with Gills Bay in Caithness, Scotland

Sailing is a family affair with Pentland Ferries
Alfred is Pentland Ferries newest vessel and has already won award for its environmental credentials

For Scottish operator Pentland Ferries, the ferry business has always been a family business.

“In 2021, Pentland Ferries will celebrate 20 years of operation and we’re proud of how the business has grown during that time,” says Kathryn Scollie, the company’s director. “Since my parents, Andrew and Susan, established the company in 2001, the entire family has joined the team at one stage or another. Now, my mother is head of finance, my brother David works shoreside, and both my sister Jenni and David’s fiancée Louise work in administration. The only exception is my sister Laura, who lives in Edinburgh but remains very close to the business.

“It’s very satisfying to know that we’ve all played a part in getting to where we are today. We’ve had our ups and downs but because it’s a family business, we’re committed to it and making it successful is at the heart of everything we do. When times are tough, we gather strength from each other and knock backs just give us a greater determination to succeed.”

This mindset has been particularly beneficial in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced Pentland Ferries to adapt to completely new operating conditions. “We’ve continued to sail throughout lockdown, carrying freight, key workers and those making essential journeys,” says Scollie. “The journey out of lockdown has been even more challenging and we’ve had to respond quickly to new government guidelines and implement new procedures at speed to minimise risk and keep everyone as safe as possible.”

The pandemic has also blighted what was set to be a busy first summer season for new ferry Alfred, which launched in November 2019. The vessel, which won CFR’s Ship of the Year 2020 award in the ferry category, can accommodate 430 passengers and up to 98 cars (or 54 cars and 12 lorries or coaches).

Notable features include spacious indoor and outdoor seating areas, a cafe and a dog-friendly lounge. Designed as a green ferry, Alfred is over 60 per cent more efficient in terms of fuel consumption and emission levels than other comparable ferries operating in Scotland. This technology, combined with the ship’s LED lighting and the use of local food suppliers, wind turbine and other passenger-facing waste-reducing and recycling initiatives, has earned the company a bronze-level Green Award.

“Our green credentials are very important to us and for our customers, so we’re proud to be the first ferry operator in the UK to have achieved a Green Tourism Award,” says Scollie. “The awards programme recognises the commitment of tourism businesses to sustainability and is seen as a prestigious hallmark of environmentally sensitive practices and operation. We hope to roll out a range of other environmental initiatives to ensure we remain at the forefront of green travel in the UK.”

The company’s next plans include constructing a new terminal building in St. Margaret’s Hope and continuing to provide services that benefit the local community, including charity fundraising for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

“During lockdown, our team took a virtual tour of RNLI stations around the British coastline and we walked, ran, cycled and rowed way beyond our goal, covering 4,000 miles and raising the £4,000 required to buy new kit for our closest lifeboat station at Longhope,” says Scollie. “We were absolutely delighted with the team effort, and so grateful for all the generous donations.”

Buoyed by her team’s success, Scollie remains positive for the future. “The attractions of travel to and from Orkney will continue, and I’m sure that there will be many busy summers to come. The important thing is that we continue to do our absolute best to keep our passengers, crew and the community as safe as possible.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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By Sandra Speares
27 November 2020

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