A direct ferry link between Scotland and mainland Europe could be restored for the first time in more than a decade next year under new plans.
Operators DFDS have signed an agreement with Ptarmigan Shipping to resume the Rosyth to Zeebrugge route amid growing interest since the UK left the European Union.
Passengers last travelled on the crossing between the Firth of Forth and the port, north of Bruges in Belgium, in 2010, after which the route became freight only.
However, it was terminated completely in 2018 when one vessel caught fire on the journey and was deemed economically unviable to continue.
The new link will be freight only at first, but there are hopes sailings open to the public are to restart in time for the 2023 summer season.
A statement read: “Ptarmigan Shipping and DFDS have signed an agreement with the intention to further investigate the possibility for a new ferry route between Rosyth and Zeebrugge with a target date being early 2023 for freight.
“This is all subject to the support we can get from the market and stakeholders, which will be our focus during the next few months. A further study is being carried out regarding the passenger business.”
Greek firm Superfast Ferries operated the overnight route from 2002 to 2008 with a crossing time of around 17 hours before it was taken over by Norfolkline.
The MV Scottish Viking – the vessel which sailed on the crossing – was at the centre of a probe in 2010 when it collided with a small fishing boat off the coast of Berwickshire, resulting in the death of one of the men on board.
Douglas Chapman, SNP MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, added: “Connections have been made with VisitScotland and VisitFlanders along with a commitment to explore a full range of tourism and passenger opportunities.
“The signing of this agreement is a great step forward. We’ve found that the project has a high amount of public and commercial goodwill and the hard work will continue in both Scotland and in Flanders to make sure the service is a huge and sustainable success.”