A £2.2 million contract to supply 48 specialist state-of-the-art livestock containers to ship cattle and sheep from Orkney and Shetland has been completed on time and on budget by manufacturers, Stewart Agricultural Limited of Inverurie, Aberdeenshire.

NorthLink Ferries took delivery of the last of the containers last month and will have the full complement available for the busy autumn season when large numbers of stock are shipped from the islands to the mainland.

More than half the containers were delivered by September last year and have been used to ship more than 27,000 cattle and 100,000 sheep.

Designed by James Stewart and based on the company’s market-leading livestock trailer, the robust 40ft aluminium double-decked container incorporates innovative design features to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare to meet stringent new EU regulations.

“We were delighted to win this contract and pleased that we have been able to deliver on time and budget,” said Mr Stewart.

“We worked closely with NorthLink and local farmers to design a container which not only meets the regulations but ensures stock arrive at their destination in top-class condition.”

NorthLink Ferries Freight/Logistics Manager, Eddie Barclay, said the system was working well with a positive feed back from both farmers and vets who had carefully monitored stock during transit.

“It has streamlined the whole system at both ends for loading and unloading,” said Mr Barclay. “The cattle and sheep are very contented and arrive in Aberdeen clean and in excellent condition.”

He paid tribute to Stewart Agricultural Limited for their innovative design, which had animal welfare as the top priority, and for their efficiency in meeting the ambitious target for delivery.

Farmers had also welcomed the new system which was proving more cost-effective both to them and to NorthLink ferries.

Features of the containers include a 7ft high lower deck to provide extra head room and ensure plenty of ventilation. Each compartment is fitted with a hay rack and water bowl, both of which can be easily adapted for either cattle or sheep. Effluent is contained in a tank built into the trailer on which the container sits.

Special double deck ramps have been put in place at Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick to facilitate easy loading and unloading and the fully-laden containers, with up to 20 cattle on the lower deck and 100 to 120 sheep on the upper deck, are moved on and off the ferry by Ro-Ro tractor trucks.

Containers are connected to the ship’s water supply during the voyage to ensure a constant supply of clean water while lighting, powered by a solar panel, facilitates easy inspection of the stock using built-in ladders and inspection hatches.

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