Positive signs going forward

The latest quarterly report on activity at Lerwick Harbour underlines the growing importance of the cruise sector, with record passengers for the season and even more expected next year, and of decommissioning, with a new oil-related project continuing in 2018.

Sandra Laurenson, Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, said: “While the effects of the oil-industry downturn will continue to be felt in 2018, there are positives going forward.

“There is the scheduled record cruise season; continuing work on Buchan Alpha and tendering for other decommissioning projects; an expected increase in the year-round roll-on/roll-off freight service as a result of the shift from containers; and the prospect of additional ro-ro passenger sailings, with no interruptions for scheduled maintenance. Construction of a new white fish market will begin in early 2018.”

Cruise passengers in the third quarter, 2017, brought the total for the season, ended-September, to 50,768, a new high. The same period also saw advance bookings set the port up for a record number of vessels and passengers in 2018.

Overall passenger numbers for the nine months to end-September were static at 158,608, with passengers on the roll-on/roll-off ferries to Orkney and mainland Scotland down 1% to 107,840, compared to the same period in 2016. Both ferries were off-service for maintenance early-year.

Figures for the tonnage of vessels using the Shetland port include Buchan Alpha, the 15,000 tonne former North Sea floating oil production unit which arrived in Dales Voe in August for decommissioning, with work expected to continue for another year or so.

Tonnage of all vessels, at 9.4 million gross tonnes, was down 6% for the nine months, with vessel arrivals 9% lower at 3,629, due to fewer oil supply and anchor handling vessels, fishing boats, workboats and the withdrawal of the Streamline container service in August. Cargo for the nine months was down 4% at 701,427 tonnes.

There were 166,665 boxes of whitefish landed, up 5% compared to the same nine- month period last year, with an average price of £1,886 per tonne achieved, up 13%. In the pelagic sector, there was an increase in herring landed over the summer season. Early-year mackerel landings were down. The autumn mackerel season is now underway.

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