Lerwick Port Authority’s latest activity report shows a better-than-forecast start to the year following a gradual return to normal operations in 2022 when performance almost reached pre-Covid pandemic levels.

The primary reason for increases in vessel arrivals and tonnage in the first quarter 2023, compared to the same period 2022, was the one-off impact of the delivery and storage of components for the onshore Viking Wind Farm project across various shipments.

There were 1,047 vessel arrivals in the first quarter of 2023 (16% more than the same period in 2022), representing gross tonnage of 1.98m tonnes (10% more than 2022). The nature of the arrivals meant that Pilotage was also up 27%, with 152 vessels assisted (gross tonnage 833,867), compared to 120 (gross tonnage 417,642).

There was a 9% increase in the number of fishing vessel arrivals to 560 in the first quarter. White fish landings were lower for the period, with 15,170 boxes landed, a reduction of 4,631 on 2022. Pelagic fish tonnage landed was up in comparison to 2022.

Cargo figures at 185,894 tonnes were similar to the same quarter the previous year, showing the impacts of Viking Wind Farm from construction materials on the roll-on/roll-off ferries in 2022 and shipments of turbine components in 2023.

Passenger arrivals via the roll-on/off ferries were up 37% on the same period in 2022, at 24,031 passengers. There were no cruise passengers for the first quarter with the season only starting in April.

Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Captain Calum Grains said: “We are delighted to see harbour activity up and welcome the boost which the arrival of the Viking Wind Farm components has provided in this first quarter. Work continues to support all the sectors traditionally serviced by the port, including ongoing efforts to attract further decommissioning projects and the plan to build an Ultra-Deep-Water Quay at Dales Voe.”

During 2022, the port welcomed 4,786 vessels, 15% more than the previous year and representing 12.2m gross tonnes of shipping (37% increase in comparison to 2021), which included the delivery of the Ninian Northern jacket in April 2022 for decommissioning and the return of cruise ships in a busy summer season.

Passenger numbers for 2022 increased by 85%, with 205,038 overall in the year. Ferry passenger numbers on the Aberdeen-Kirkwall routes between January and December totalled 146,588. The cruise season returned positively from May to September, with 94 vessels visiting, compared to only 18 in 2021, and 58,450 passengers.

Marine tourism also saw a huge bounce back with 590 visiting yachts, compared to 144 in 2021 (a 310% increase), including the welcome return of the Round Britain & Ireland and Shetland-Bergen race competitors.

Captain Grains said: “After a challenging few years, port operations returned to pre-pandemic levels as we closed out 2022. The positive result provides us with the ability and confidence to look forward again and plan for positive investment in our harbour infrastructure.”

Viking Windfarm component deliveries boosted Lerwick Harbour’s activity in the first quarter 2023. Photo: Rory Gillies, Shetland Flyer Aerial Media.
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