A trade union has expressed concern at news the ferry contract to the Northern Isles has been awarded to a new company.
The £243m contract providing lifeline ferry services for the next six years has been awarded to multi-national firm Serco.
The company is due to take over the reigns from Northlink Ferries Ltd in the summer.
Trade union Nautilus International says it is seeking "urgent meetings" with Serco management and will also start to discuss concerns with members working on the ferries.
Staff employed by Northlink, working on the passenger and freight service between the mainland and Orkney and Shetland, are expected to transfer to Serco under Tupe regulations.
Mark Dickinson, Nautilus general secretary, said: "We strongly dispute the need to put these essential services out to tender every six years, with all the resulting fears for the future that this generates for staff and public alike.
"Whilst we take some reassurance from Serco’s statement that it anticipates Tupe will apply, members will be extremely concerned about the implications for their future pay, conditions and pensions.
"We have had a very good professional relationship with NorthLink over many years and would expect that Serco will honour our recognition arrangements and will seek an early meeting with them to establish a relationship and ensure members’ interests are protected."
Local MSPs are also urging the Transport Minister to safeguard freight services.
Orkney and Shetland MSPs Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott met with Serco representatives on Tuesday.
Mr Scott said: "Freight exports of fresh seafood, livestock and other goods are the essential part of the Northern Isles ferry contract.
"Shetland businesses and the local NFU have been in touch since Friday expressing alarm over any cut to the number of ships and the timetable for the service.
"Serco are constrained in what they can say at this stage. However, Transport Minister Keith Brown must now allay fears in the Northern Isles that the new contract will not see the loss of a freight ship."
Mr McArthur said: "As well as the serious fears regarding the future of the freight service, a subject I discussed with the local livestock sector in Orkney earlier this week, we highlighted key issues such as timetabling, fare structures, local employment and sourcing.
"On timetabling and pricing, Serco assured us that there would be no changes in the short term, as the company seeks to make a smooth transition.
"This will include retention of the Northlink name, website and contact numbers. However, Serco clearly have plans to look at introducing changes over the medium to long-term and we stressed the need to do this only in close consultation with key stakeholders in the islands."
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