Leasing the Tallink Ferry to house Ukrainian refugees in Leith’s an imaginative response to a difficult situation by the Scottish Government. Safe and secure accommodations required, and this provides it, even if it can only be for a short period of time. Having crossed the Baltic on this or a sister ship I know that the cabins are small, and space is limited. But needs must even if moving to a proper home must be done as soon as possible.
But what it also shows, as a friend who’s a maritime expert, was pointing out to me is that there’s a market there for ships to lease. As with trains and planes, boats are now often leased rather than purchased. Indeed, we know that in Scotland as though ferries are often built for Cal Mac, they have also leased in emergencies.
There might not be a sea that’s got them berthed as planes, once were and maybe still are, stand parked in US deserts. But they’re out there and as the ferry in Leith shows can be acquired quickly, in weeks if not days.
So, my friend mused, if it can be done to host Ukrainian refugees why can’t it be done to support Scottish exports or inbound tourism. For sure news outlets have been running stories on a ferry to Europe restarting next year.
But firstly, that’s all talk and speculation. There’s no deal on the horizon and without some modest Scottish Government funding, it’ll be as ephemeral as the announcement of an Indy referendum. Secondly, why wait. The need’s now. Summer’s past as this goes to print. But there’s still visitors wanting to come and trade that needs to get out. Strikes at Felixstowe have compounded what was already a huge concern for business. Time’s of the essence.
Of course, the government would need to fund it, as they have the one that lies in Leith. But it would be offset at least by paying customers and plying trade. The ferry from Greenock to China shows what’s possible. Cal Mac or another operator could run it and crew it.
I think it’s good to have leased in the ferry for Ukrainian refugees but where’s ours for trade and tourism.