Ferry route resumes
First Minister Alex Salmond today welcomed the first freight and foot passengers to arrive in Scotland from Norfolkline's new ferry service between Rosyth and Zeebrugge.
Thje First Minister also announced support for the service with the offer of two million Euros (£1.8 million) in funding through a Waterborne Freight Grant.
The service will be undertaken by a single vessel, the Scottish Viking, sailing three days a week into Rosyth.
The Scottish Viking is a modern, fuel-efficient ferry which is expected to result in up to 1.4 million lorry miles being removed from Scotland's roads each year, generating significant environmental benefits.
The Norfolkline service replaces the Superfast Ferries link, which was discontinued in September last year. By working closely with Forth Ports, Norfolkline are confident that they will ensure Scotland retains this direct link with the European mainland.
To celebrate the new ferry service, and welcome passengers to Scotland in our Homecoming Year, every passenger was presented with a Homecoming pack including a discounted ticket offer for The Gathering.
First Minister Alex Salmond:
"I'm delighted to welcome the Scottish Viking and its first homecoming passengers to Scotland. Securing the continuation of this service is a real success story and hugely important to Scotland's economy. That's why I'm pleased to announce two million Euros in funding through a Waterborne Freight Grant' to support the service.
"Maintaining connections with major European markets is vital for Scotland at a time of global economic challenges. But not only will the Scottish Viking allow access to important commercial contacts, it will be a boost for the local economy in Fife, and an environmentally friendly route home for Scotland's friends, family and visitors.
"I'm sure the Scottish Viking will be glad to find that it has arrived at Rosyth and not Up Helly Aa, but passengers will still find Scotland's reputation for festivals, fun and entertainment well deserved. This year, with a programme of over 300 inspirational Homecoming activities throughout the year - there is no shortage of unique events to get involed in.
"For everyone onboard today there is the offer of special tickets to The Gathering, a chance to be a part of history - to reconnect with Scotland's ancestors and witness Scotland's largest ever Highland Games. This is just one example of the fantastic programme of activity across the country and from today Rosyth will be a fantastic gateway to them."
The Scottish Viking is a brand new Visentini class vessel. Visentini ferries are modern and fuel-efficient.
It is expected that the new service will be able to carry a comparable number of passengers to the previous Superfast service, but with additional capacity for freight.
The voyage from Rosyth to Zeebrugge will take 20 hours from quay to quay.
The International Ferry Terminal at Rosyth was originally developed by Forth Ports with Scottish Government support of £12,293,000 through the Freight Facilities Grant Scheme.
Norfolkline have been awarded Waterborne Freight Grant funding of €2 million from the Scottish Government over the first 3 years of the operation of the new ferry service. This grant scheme is aimed at encouraging the transfer of freight from road to water. Grant payments will be made in arrears once freight has been moved.'
Up Helly Aa is Shetland's Viking Fire Festival, celebrated on the last Tuesday of January. The festivities reach their crescendo with the burning of a Viking galley.
The Gathering 2009 is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of Scotland's culture, both contemporary and traditional. The Gathering 2009 takes place in Edinburgh on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 July and is set to bring together around 40,000 people from all over the world. The two-day Scottish festival and Highland Games in Holyrood Park will feature the best of Scotland, past and present. Highlights are Capercaillie, Dougie MacLean and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, international authors, pipe bands and solo pipers, world champion athletes and dancers and lots more.
Passengers onboard the Scottish Viking have been offered a 10 per cent discount on tickets to The Gathering, which usually retail at £15 or £10 for concessions.