About Orkney Ferries


Organised and scheduled passenger and cargo shipping services to the North Isles of Orkney can be said to emanate from an event in 1864 when Captain George Robertson bought a small wooden steamer the Quarry Maid. He renamed her the Orcadia, and set sail from Liverpool to cater for the increasing trade between Orkney's capital Kirkwall and the Islands.

This increase in trade encouraged local businessmen in Orkney, along with Captain Robertson to purchase a larger vessel of the same name and so form the Orkney Steam Navigation Company in 1868. The Orcadia was in continuous service for 63 years.

Between 1892 and 1928, three further vessels supplemented and replaced vessels in the fleet until in 1928, the original Earl Thorfinn and the Earl Sigurd vessels joined the fleet.

In 1961, the replacement of the Earl Thorfinn proved vital but the construction costs were beyond the Orkney Steam Navigation Company, which went into voluntary liquidation.

The company was replaced by the Orkney Islands Shipping Company, which by virtue of an agreement with the Secretary of State of Scotland, is committed to the continuance of services by air or seas or both.

In 1987, Orkney Islands Council assumed responsibility for the inter islands' ferry services, and in 1995 Orkney Islands Shipping Company changed its name to Orkney Ferries Ltd.

Since 1987 the fleet has been expanded. There are now 10 vessels in the fleet serving 13 islands destinations, carrying over 82,000 vehicles and undertaking around 320,000 passenger journeys annually.

Our Fleet

Orkney Ferries operates 74 different point-to-point connections across its network, and there are more than 20,000 sailings each year.

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