If Scrabster is considered as just the gateway to Orkney, that does this fine little port in Caithness in the far north of mainland Scotland an injustice.
For some years now, Scrabster has increasingly been seen as a strategic port for important cargo links for islands further North than the Orkneys, exemplified by the business-like lo-lo/container ship Lómur 4,454,’02 seen there in late January, Gibraltar registered and on long term charter to Iceland based operator Eimskip.
With her partner Blikur, she operates on what Eimskip terms their ‘Gray Line’ linking Iceland and the Faeroes every week or so to Scrabster and Immingham from such ports as Reykjavik, Isafjordur and Akureyri in Iceland and Thorshavn and Runavik in Faeroe. Of course, one of the principal freights is fish of both the deep sea and farmed varieties and a very valuable commodity it is too these days. Eimskip has several routes linking Iceland and Faeroe to mainland Europe and Scandinavia and others to the USA and Canada.
So Scrabster is keyed into a North Atlantic crossroads of these economically productive islands. The Caithness port also services some of the oilfields west of the Northern Isles and on my recent visit, the standby vessel Siem Opal came into refuel and store.
Over in Stromness, prominently moored up in the harbour during my visit, was a fish-farm service vessel, the Viking Senior, adapted as a fish carrier from a small Norwegian hull. And in Kirkwall, I witnessed another handy inter-island freighter with her welded on former Faeroese name, Tjornunes from the port of Klaksvik, plain to see. I understand she is called Leah G, though she did not sport that name as yet.
She was loading bags, I guess of salmon feed from a large truck. Later in the year, it could just as easily have been fertiliser for Orkney agriculture which appears to be thriving these days if the groaning shelves of Orkney cheeses, oat cakes and other products I see is anything to go by. There is plenty of work for such vessels as the Leah G.