Northern Isles ferry tendering process under way
The tendering process for the next Northern Isles ferry contract is under way after the publication of the contract notice.
The contract for routes between mainland Scotland and Orkney and Shetland - worth an estimated £370m - is expected to be awarded in summer next year.
It will run for eight years.
Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said the services played a vital role.
He said: "I want to make sure that we provide the best possible transport links for the communities that depend on them.
"The publication of the contract notice starts the procurement of the next Northern Isles Ferry Services contract in earnest, inviting interest from potential operators.
"All the routes will be tendered as a single bundle and all existing vessels will be made available to the successful bidder."
In 2012, ministers awarded a six-year contract to Serco.