Orkney Harbour Authority operates a 24hr port VTS Information Service from its operations room at Scapa for vessels navigating in Scapa Flow and Kirkwall Bay / Shapinsay Sound areas.


A continuous watch is maintained on VHF channel 16 and 11. The call sign is "ORKNEY VTS". The normal working channel is 11.

The operations room can also be contacted as follows:
Tel: +44 (0)1856 873636
Fax: +44 (0)1856 873012
Email: [email protected]

The service provides information on all aspects of port operations including pilotage, traffic movements, navigation warnings, weather forecasts and berth availability. Orkney VTS broadcasts regular local weather forecasts and navigational warnings at 0915 and 1715 (with updates as required) on VHF channel 20.

The working VHF channels for individual piers and harbours within the harbour authority area are:

  • Kirkwall Harbour Radio VHF channel 14.
  • Stromness Harbour Radio VHF channel 14.



A large proportion of shipping movements in and around the Orkney Islands are created by ferry traffic. A variety of ferries operate daily services throughout the year between Orkney and the Scottish mainland. In addition, Orkney Ferries operates numerous daily inter-island services. Details of these vessels' scheduled movements can be obtained from:

Serco Northlink Ferries

Tel: 0845 6000 449 or web: www.northlinkferries.co.uk

Pentland Ferries

Tel: +44 (0)1856 831226 or web: www.pentlandferries.com

John O'Groats Ferries

Tel: +44 (0)1955 611353 or web: www.jogferry.co.uk

Orkney Ferries

Tel: +44 (0)1856 872044 or web: www.orkneyferries.co.uk

Fishing Vessels

Due to changes in the fishing quota system, offshore fishing vessels are a less common sight in Orkney waters than they have been in the past. However, there are numerous smaller inshore fishing vessels operating in and around the islands, often seen trawling for setting creels for crab or lobster.

Other Traffic

Commonly seen vessels in Orkney waters throughout the year include coasters, fish farm service craft, diving support boats and general workboats. During the summer months these are joined by cruise liners and pleasure craft of all types. Oil related traffic such as tankers, tugs and pilot or agent launches operate continuously in Scapa Flow.

Diving Support Boats

The Orkney Islands are renowned as a popular venue for recreational diving. There are many opportunities for diving all around Orkney but particularly in Scapa Flow where the German naval fleet was scuttled in 1919. There are eight German wrecks remaining, which are preserved for diving exploration. These are mainly positioned to the north and east of the island of Cava. See the associated chartlet chart BA 35 for further details.

Principal Wreck and Dive Sites in Scapa Flow

Port Entry

Before entering the port, Masters should (where applicable) ensure that:

  • The vessel's trim is such that it does not exceed 3 metres by the stern (4m for STS).
  • The propeller is fully immersed. The anchors are cleared and ready for immediate use.
  • Hand steering is used.
  • All propulsion systems are ready for ship manoeuvres.
  • The steering gear is ready for manoeuvres.
  • Sufficient generators are operating to negate problems should a failure occur.
  • The ship's AIS transponder and all navigation equipment is in operation and functioning properly.
  • The bridge team is in place and fully familiar with the port passage plan
  • Internal communication systems (e.g. hand-held radios) have been checked.
  • The ship's manoeuvring information and pilot card are ready.
  • The pilot ladder (if required) is rigged in accordance with IMO requirements and IMPA recommendations on the lee side and 1 metre above the water level.
  • Crew can be called at short notice to attend pilot boarding and secure an escort tug if necessary.

Masters should contact Orkney Harbour Radio immediately they have any doubt as to their vessel's preparedness.

Port Passage Planning

Port passage planning is carried out to determine the safest and most efficient passage for a vessel proceeding between two points within the harbour area. Detailed plans are required to ensure margins of safety. When complete, the plan becomes the basis for navigation. Equipment can fail and the unexpected happen, so monitoring the ship's progress and contingency planning are also essential.


Port passage planning must be carried out by all vessels operating within the harbour authority areas with the exception of recreational vessels and vessels under 50 metres in length. It is the responsibility of the ship's master to ensure that port passage plans are drawn up and produced, where required, for inspection. The harbour authority encourages all vessels, as indicated, to undertake port passage planning.

Planning Procedure

The ship's port passage plan should be produced as an adjunct to the vessel's berth to berth voyage plan and should include, where applicable, the following:

  1. The intended track.
  2. Course alterations including wheel-over positions.
  3. Distances off salient points.
  4. Marked areas of danger.
  5. Intended speeds in specific areas.
  6. Information on weather.
  7. Information on tide flows.
  8. Information on under-keel clearances.
  9. Positions where a change in machinery status is required.
  10. Positions where VTS and port reporting is required.
  11. Intended approach/departure to/from mooring position.
  12. Intended mooring arrangement.
  13. Contingency plan in event of an emergency.

Should a vessel become involved in an incident (e.g. a grounding, collision or dangerous occurrence) within the harbour authority area, the master will ensure that all records with regard to the passage, including the plan, can be accessed for investigation purposes.

Reporting procedure


Any vessels of 12m LOA and over or certified to carry more than 12 passenger when navigating within the VTS Area.

Inward / Outward Bound Vessels

Pre-arrival / departure reporting requirements as applicable, the following reports should be sent at least 24 hours before arrival at the harbour limits or on departure from the previous port if less than 24 hours

For further details and requirements, also see

Vessels must maintain a continuous listening watch on VHF channel 11 when navigating within the VTS area. All vessels must report prior to leaving a berth or anchorage to Orkney VTS and provide:

  1. Vessel name
  2. Intentions
  3. Route

Non-reporting vessels are encouraged to participate.


Vessels reporting at reporting points must provide Orkney VTS with the following:

  1. Vessel name
  2. Position
  3. Intentions
  4. ETA berth
Reporting Points

Reporting vessels must report inward and outward to Orkney VTS on VHF channel 11 when passing or crossing the following reporting points and lines:

PointReference Point NamePosition
AOrkney Harbour Authority Limits
Shapinsay Sound
59°00.4 N
002°49.1 W
BOrkney Harbour Authority Limits
East of Swona
58°44.0 N
003°01.1 W
COrkney Harbour Authority Limits
West of Swona
58°45.35 N
003°08.7 W
DOrkney Harbour Authority Limits
Hoy Sound
58°56.8 N
003°21.25 W
EOrkney Harbour Authority Limits
Wide Firth
59°02.0 N
002°57.3 W
FClestrain Sound58°56.5 N
003°15.0 W
GHoxa Sound
West of Nevi Skerry
58°50.7 N
003°03.3 W
HHoxa Sound
East of Nevi Skerry
58°50.86 N
003°00.5 W

All times should be forwarded as local time using the 24hr notation. Strict radio discipline should be adhered to at all times. Orkney Islands Council accepts no liability for any loss or damage of any kind however caused, whether arising as a result of ill advice, negligence or otherwise or as a result of the non-availability of the service.

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