THE company which wants to start a new freight and passenger ferry service between Rosyth and Eemshaven in The Netherlands is pressing ahead with its plans despite the Scottish Government rejecting an initial approach on the project.

TEC-Ferragon, part of the Perthshire-based TEC Offshore group, has contracts in place for ferries and crew to start a service between the Fife ferry terminal and the Dutch port which is run by Groningen Seaports.

Although it admits the target is “ambitious” TEC-Ferragon joint managing director David Kellas confirmed they would hope to start the service by the end of October when Brexit is due – any problems at Dover, for instance, would see immediate demand for alternative ferry access to the Continent.

Kellas said: “We are in discussions with the Freight Transport Association and they tell us there are 10,000 vehicles using Dover and the Channel Tunnel every day, and if 10% of them are Scottish it’s a no-brainer that a ferry from Rosyth to Eemshaven would be helpful.”

The sticking point seems to be the commercial side of any deal. Both the Scottish Government and TEC-Ferragon acknowledge the environmental benefits of freight trucks using ferries rather than roads, but the hard cash element of support for a new service is problematic.

Perhaps ironically, one of the issues seems to be the question of state aid to a private company about which the EU has strict rules.

A spokesperson for the Government said: “We are supportive of new direct ferry services linking Scotland to Europe, but they need to be delivered on a commercial basis.”

Reports in Groningen yesterday confirmed that Eemshaven, the fastest-growing port in the Netherlands, could accommodate a roll-on, roll-off, ferry service from Scotland.

Eeemshaven currently has only one ferry service linked to the German island of Borkum, but according to Dutch reports, Groningen Seaports are currently carrying out feasibility studies and see “no obstacles to accommodate bigger ferry ships.”

The port has recently seen the addition of an extra 100m long quay at Sealane Terminals, and while it has limited facilities at present, Eemshaven could quickly add the infrastructure necessary for incoming and outgoing passengers and freight.

Kellas said: “Eemshaven is an ideal port. The infrastructure around there with regard to passenger rail was put in last year, and there is freight rail, too.

“It’s just a few kilometres to the main motorway, and from there you can go east and west in Europe.”

The proposed Rosyth service could face competition from other potential operators across the North Sea.

The National understands that an unnamed Danish company is looking into the possibility of establishing a ferry service to and from the east coast of Scotland from Denmark with Aberdeen, Dundee and Rosyth all mentioned as possible destinations here. Reports in Belgium also indicate that ferry operators could be looking to establish a service between the port city of Ghent and a port in the “the northern UK”, as one freight magazine put it.

It was to Zeebrugge in Belgium that the former DFDS freight ferry service operated from Rosyth until last year.

TEC-Farragon seem to be ahead of the competition, however, and Kellas is adamant that any new service has to involve Rosyth.

A spokesman from Forth Ports, which own the Port of Rosyth, said: “We continue to explore options for the Rosyth ferry. We remain receptive to approaches from potential operators.”

Local authorities around Rosyth are watching developments with interest. A spokesperson for Edinburgh Council said: “We would welcome a well-managed ferry route from the Firth of Forth to the Low Countries, which could positively impact on the Capital and the wider city region.”