Glimmers of light in challenging 2021

Annual traffic statistics released today (23 February 2021) by Lerwick Port Authority confirm the depth of twin impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and oil industry downturn across all sectors of harbour activity last year.

“The severe downturn of activity in 2020 overshadowed the good news, with the opening of our new fishmarket and the arrival of the Ninian Northern oil platform’s topside for decommissioning demonstrating our commitment to sustaining and developing these industries,” said Port Authority Chief Executive, Captain Calum Grains.

Vessel arrivals, at 4,401, were down 13% on 2019, including a 46% decrease in oil-related shipping using the deep-water Shetland port.

There were 204,946 whitefish boxes landed, which was an 11% decrease compared to 2019, despite a modest increase in the number of fishing vessel arrivals. Demand for pelagic fish was strong, with a total of 32,375 tonnes landed for the year, a 25% increase on the previous year’s landings.

Tonnage of shipping dropped 35% to 8,150,990 gross tonnes, with oil-related traffic, including heavy lift vessels and the Ninian Northern topside, down by 34%, with fewer supply and anchor handling ships.

Lower offshore activity is reflected in a 28% drop in related cargo, contributing to a 15% decline in overall cargo to 756,003 tonnes for the 12 months.

With only two cruise ships calling in what had been expected to be a record 100-plus year, overall passenger numbers, at 57,933, showed a 74% decrease. Ferry passengers on the Aberdeen and Kirkwall routes fell 62% to 56,434, due to Covid-related restrictions on travel.

Captain Grains added: “Uncertainties will continue in every sector for 2021 which will be another challenging year financially. The Covid vaccination programme adds to glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel.

“With strong forward bookings, and any necessary measures implemented, we will be ready to support the return of cruise ships when the time is right. Access for fish to EU markets post-Brexit is improving gradually.

“Building on Lerwick’s reputation as a leader in decommissioning, further contracts continue to be pursued, and there is also potential for supporting new installation work. Growing involvement with the renewables sector will see construction materials for the Viking windfarm handled and support for works related to the installation of an interconnector to the Scottish mainland.”

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