Cruise sector outstanding feature
Lerwick Harbour ended the third quarter with a continuing upward trend in a number of areas of activity, while the downturn in offshore operations had an ongoing impact on overall freight handled in the first nine months, compared with the same period in 2017.
Statistics for January to September, released by Lerwick Port Authority, show that vessel arrivals jumped by 8.4% to 3,933, with tonnage up 8.7% at 10.2 million gross tonnes, mainly due to more cruise ships, fishing boats and roll-on/roll-off ferries with operator, Serco NorthLink, providing a third freight ferry for peak periods from mid-September.
Despite an increase in oil-related standby and seismic vessels, the decrease in heavy lift vessels and support ships meant the decline in offshore traffic continued, resulting in total cargo across the deep-water port’s quays, down 11% at 622,862 tonnes.
Although pilotage movements were lower for the period, a record monthly tonnage of 2.8 million gross tonnes of shipping was handled in July, a peak time for cruise vessels.
Passenger numbers were up 25.7% to 199,421, with 3.3% more, at 111,417, on the ro/ro ferries to Aberdeen and Kirkwall. The cruise ship total, which includes an October call, saw an increase of 78% to 90,336 passengers in an all-round record season.
There were 199,066 boxes of white fish landed, up 19.4%, with an average price £1,968 per tonne, up 7%. In the pelagic sector, the volume of herring landed increased over the summer season, with prices similar to last year. The autumn mackerel season is now underway.
Port Authority Chief Executive Sandra Laurenson, said: “There were positive signs over the nine months, but the low level of activity in the offshore industry continues to disappoint. That market is expected to remain quiet in 2019, with decommissioning work at Lerwick picking up again in 2020. Next year will see new records set in the cruise sector. Construction is continuing apace on the new white fish market, for completion in early 2020.”
Ms Laurenson was commenting ahead of her previously-announced retiral, on 16November after more than 40 years with the Authority and its predecessor Harbour Trust. She will be succeeded by Deputy Chief Executive and Harbour Master, Captain Calum Grains.