As Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack noted:
We have been clear that the UK Government will do what is necessary to protect our economy during the current Coronavirus pandemic. That includes safeguarding the essential ferry routes between Scotland and Northern Ireland. I know just how vital the busy services in and out of Cairnryan are. It is essential we keep them going for the economies of both Northern Ireland and the South West of Scotland.
Through the package, UK ensures that critical freight will keep moving into and across the Union, while major ferry routes among Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be further secured.
For the records, the £17m fund is provided by the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive and will be made available to operators so that they continue running freight services on five sea routes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Commenting about the situation, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
Today’s action will help ensure we have the freight capacity we need across the UK. This funding will help ferry operators protect our supply chain and maintain the flow of critical goods across the Irish Sea and throughout the Union. The funding package includes support for the ferry services running between Cairnryan and Larne and Cairnryan and Belfast.
Struggling to maintain freight routes operational, the UK Government’s Department for Transport also noted that thousands of volunteers, vehicles, aircraft and ships from the transport field have been placed on standby in a new “Transport Support Unit” to assist frontline responders during the crisis across the whole of the UK.
Apart from the freight routes package, the London-based charity Seafarers UK decided to create a new "Seafarers UK COVID-19 Emergency Fund" of £2 million in order to support crewmembers during this unprecedented crisis.