THE new freight ferry service between Rosyth and Zeebrugge is to be cut back - just four months after it was launched.
The DFDS Seaways service currently makes four sailings a week but that is being reduced to just three.
The "new enhanced freight service" was introduced on 5th January but has already run into stormy seas.
The reduction in service was revealed in the Press (today) and has now been confirmed coming into effect on 2nd May.
DFDS route director Allan Hull said the change reflected a lower than expected demand for the service.
"It is unfortunate that we are not able to maintain the capacity we had hoped to operate on the route.
"In the current climate of escalating fuel prices this meant we had no choice but to reduce the frequency of sailings."
Mr Huil stressed there was no reduction in the company's commitment to the service and added, "We also are retaining both vessels on the route which will mean that frequency of sailings can be easily increased should the position change in the future.
"We appreciate all the backing we have had from the haulage industry, port authorities and the Fife community and hope that they both understand our position on this decision and that we will continue to receive their valuable support."
It is another setback for hopes to establish Rosyth as a successful ferry port after the loss of the Superfast service launched amid great scenes of celebration in May 2002.
Superfast pulled out of the route and was eventually replaced by Norfolkline which was then taken over by DFDS.
After initially keeping the passenger side of the service DFDS decided to concentrate on freight only - a major blow to Fife's tourism market.
The looming cut to the freight service came as a shock to Fife politicians and the Scottish Government also appears to have been in the dark.
Fife Council's chair of enterprise, environment and transportation, Tony Martin, knew nothing about it until informed by the Press and said, "It's deeply disappointing.
"What we've been told up to now is that the service was doing well especially on incoming traffic.
"There was no indication that this cut was going to be brought in.
"The undertaking they gave us was that as a freight route it would be successful. I
"I imagine the high cost of fuel will have been a factor in them coming to this decision."
Rosyth SNP councillor Douglas Chapman said, "This move is in totally the opposite direction from what Rosyth and Scotland needs.
"I've not been impressed with DFDS since they took over the route from Norfolkline and here is another reason for that.
"Hauliers need to have security in knowing when a service is going to be leaving and arriving at Rosyth or else they will use alternative routes.
"This is not good news at all for Rosyth."