DISCUSSIONS are currently taking place with potential operators of a new Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry link.

Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman is trying to to reinstate the ferry link between West Fife and Belgium.

He said the search had started for a new operator who wanted to make a “long-term and serious investment” to put the service on the ferry map of Scotland and Europe.

Mr Chapman said: “People across Scotland really miss the previous ferry service.

“No-one I’ve spoken to, from government ministers to port authorities and industry insiders, has suggested that this service couldn’t be viable or couldn’t be a success.

“Discussions are taking place now with potential operators. I remain hopeful that such an operator can see the exciting prospect of moving our exports and passengers by sea.”

DFDS ran ferry services from 2002 but stopped carrying passengers in 2010 when it became a freight-only service.

A fire on board the Finlandia Seaways ship on April 16, 2018, hastened the end of the Rosyth to Zeebrugge freight service, when DFDS could not find a replacement ship and “lost all hope” of turning around losses.

The Ministry of Transport announced at Christmas that they would support South Coast ports and ferry services by investing £100 million if there was a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Chapman said he hoped some of the money would be allocated to Scotland to support exporters and attract tourists.

“We are not asking for a direct subsidy to the route yet but, in discussions, government ministers see the benefits to Scotland of such a service and having their support at the highest levels of government in Edinburgh and in London is a bonus to the campaign.

“We need to be supporting Scottish exporters from here to help them avoid any customs log jam at Dover or another South-Coast port.

“For passengers, a ferry service will attract a different kind of tourist to Scotland – they’ll bring their motor home, car or their bike and not everyone likes the prospect of flying – so there’s a considerable tourist market there we could be tapping into more effectively.

“I look forward to the day when Scotland’s Euro-ferry is sailing up and down the Forth on a regular basis taking our goods to the huge European market or bringing in our European neighbours who want to spend time in Scotland.”

Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “Maintaining and increasing the connectivity of Scotland to our key trading partners on the mainland of Europe is a high priority for the Scottish Government.

“We are very keen to progress the reintroduction of Scotland’s direct ferry connections to mainland Europe and would also welcome the introduction of new services should options emerge.

“We would, therefore, seek to engage positively with any operators who could run passenger and/or freight services on a commercially-viable basis to support Scotland’s tourism sector and exporters.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Secretary met Mr Chapman recently to discuss the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry route.

“Mr Mundell understands the importance of the route to the local and Scottish economy and agreed to raise the issue with the Scottish Government.”