A busy start to the year at Lerwick Harbour has seen the tonnage of cargo handled increase by 16.1% to 214,271 tonnes in the first quarter, compared with the same period in 2006.

The high level of activity in the offshore oil and gas industry was reflected in the number of oil-related vessels using the port between January and March - up 65.5% at 149, with the tonnage up 70% at 440,434 gross tonnes.

The total number of vessels calling at Lerwick rose 10.3% to 1,086, while the volume of shipping was down 2.5% at 1,961,497 gross tonnes. Factors affecting the tonnage figure include the NorthLink ferry, Hrossey, being out of service for several weeks for a significant upgrade and expansion of passenger berths, and no visits by Smyril Line’s ferry, Norrona, during the quarter. She called during March, 2006, as part of that year’s programme.

Passenger numbers were down 12% in the first quarter at 15,744.

The demand for services of the port’s three pilots increased 68.1% to 321 occasions, with the tonnage of vessels piloted at 1,041,868 gross tonnes - up 75.1%. The level of activity in the offshore industry and Streamline Shipping’s introduction of a larger vessel on the regular Aberdeen service were the main reasons.

Total fish landings for the quarter were 40,179 tonnes, valued at £22.7 million – a reduction of 2% on volume and an increase of 25% on value.

White fish landings rose to 2,318 tonnes tonnes, valued at £3.3 million, an increase of 26% on volume and 48% on value, with the average price per tonne up 17% to £1,454. Mackerel landings increased in January and February.

Landings to the SFP fish meal and oil plant at Heogan, Bressay, were down on tonnage, but up in value at 14,062 tonnes, worth £3.4 million.

Sandra Laurenson, Deputy Chief Executive, Lerwick Port Authority, commented: “The port has made a positive start to 2007. Expanded accommodation on the two NorthLink ferries, activity in the offshore, commercial and fishing sectors, and the return of the Norrona and cruise ships from next month, will all contribute to a busy year. Particularly significant will be a huge decommissioned module being brought to Lerwick from the Frigg gas field in June.”

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