The company is owned by the Orkney Islands Council and was established in 1960 as the Orkney Islands Shipping Company.1
In 1991 the Orkney Islands Shipping Company acquired a private sector ferry company also called Orkney Ferries, which had been established to compete on the short sea crossing from the Scottish mainland to the Orkney Islands, but which had not succeeded in establishing the route. This company's ferry was assimilated into the inter-island fleet, and in 1995 the Orkney Islands Shipping Company adopted the name Orkney Ferries. Despite this acquisition and change of name, the current Orkney Ferries does not operate services to and from the Scottish mainland, leaving this to other operators such as NorthLink Ferries and Pentland Ferries.1
Hoy Head at Lyness
Orkney Ferries operate between the Orkney mainland and thirteen of the smaller islands.2 Services include:13
MV Varagen, built by Cochrane Shipbuilders of Selby in 1988 for the earlier Orkney Ferries, and acquired with the company in 1991. This ferry carries 144 passengers and 32 cars, and is normally used on the North Isles service.