The wide range of factors influencing activity levels at Shetland’s main commercial port is highlighted by annual traffic figures for 2004 released by Lerwick Port Authority.
Last year saw record numbers of passengers using the port, an upturn in landings and value of white and pelagic fish, and growth in cargo handled for the offshore oil and gas industry, while there were decreases in some other sectors.
Passenger traffic reached a new record - up 17% to 148,795, with roll-on/roll-off ferry passengers increasing by 15% to 128,043 and the popularity of Lerwick as a port-of-call for cruise ships seeing an increase of 30% in passengers to 20,752.
A total of 108,877 tonnes of fish, valued at £36.6 million were landed in 2004, up 5% on volume and 22% on value, with the increase in white fish landings particularly encouraging - up 28% in volume to 6,442 tonnes and 38% in value to £6.9 million. The average price per tonne for white fish also increased - by 7% to £1,077 per tonne.
There was also a small increase in oil-related activity at Lerwick last year, due in part to servicing the Clair Field development.
The figure for all cargoes handled was down 5% to 872,472 tonnes, partly due to less salmon feed coming in and a reduction in farmed salmon shipped out.
Factors behind a fall in the number and tonnage of vessels using the port included the shipping industry’s continuing trend in using larger and fewer vessels and a downturn in the total of fishing vessels and of live fish carriers for the salmon-farming sector. Overall, vessel arrivals were down 7% at 5,195, while the tonnage fell 2% to 12,753,185 gross tonnes.
The principal reason behind the decrease in the tonnage of shipping was the ending of roll-on/roll-off services to Orkney and mainland Scotland by Norse Island Ferries and the reduced frequency of calls by Smyril Line in the autumn.
The number of Pilotage movements in-and-out of the harbour was up 14% to 960, reflecting the increase in larger vessels using the port, including refrigerated reefer ships calling at Shetland Catch and oil-related vessels.
Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Allan Wishart, said: “Diversity of traffic is one of the port’s strengths, but it does also mean that a variety of factors – positive and negative - impact on activity, as is shown by the reasons behind last year’s figures.
“While this will continue to be the case, we can look forward in 2005 to another busy season for cruise ships, the start of many years’ involvement in a major offshore decommissioning contracts, and a further increase in pelagic activity at Shetland Catch.”