With the huge growth since the 1990s in the popularity of Lerwick as a destination for cruise ships, the Shetland Islands port is on course for a double celebration. Next year will mark the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the first cruise vessel noted in the port’s records, with the 1,000th due to sail into the harbour in 2009.
Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Sandra Laurenson, said: “Both occasions will be significant milestones in the development of Lerwick as a port-of-call for cruise ships, and we are already planning how to mark them. For example, at the Seatrade Europe exhibition in September, as well as attracting vessels for next season, we will be encouraging operators to include Lerwick in their 2009 itineraries, with the prospect of being the 1,000th cruise vessel to visit since port records began.
“It will have taken more than 80 years to get to that figure, but probably will require only another two decades to double it to 2,000!”
Port Authority records began in 1924 and include a first entry for cruise ships on 17 July 1928 when the 675 ton Mira arrived from Kirkwall, Orkney, with 112 members of the Old Norse Society of Bergen, Norway, on board, to tour Shetland before sailing later that day for Faroe and Iceland.
There were cruise ship calls in the late 19th century. For example, local newspapers, The Shetland News and The Shetland Times, noted two visits by the M.V. St. Sunniva in 1894 on her way from cruises in the Norwegian fjords.
Sandra Laurenson, said: “It’s fitting that the P & O-operated St. Sunniva was one of the earliest cruise callers to Lerwick which claims to be the birthplace of cruising. Arthur Anderson, the co-founder of P & O and credited with inventing cruising, was born locally at The Bod of Gremista, now preserved as a museum in his honour.”
The steady growth in cruise ships calling at Lerwick accelerated in the 1990s and the port now averages almost 50 and around 25,000 passengers in a season.
At 60 degrees north, on a level with St Petersburg, in Russia, and Anchorage, Alaska, and at the crossroads of the North Atlantic and North Sea, Lerwick is Britain’s “Top Port”. Vessels can berth right in the heart of the town, while larger ships anchor in the sheltered, deep-water port for passenger transfer.
Shetland is famous for their seabird colonies, marine life, beaches and cliffs, as well as their Scandinavian and Scottish heritage. A new visitor attraction, the Shetland Museum and Archives, on a stunning waterfront location in Lerwick, and including thousands of artefacts, a three-storey high hall housing hanging boats, and a boat shed where boats are built and restored, opened earlier this year.
*Lerwick Port Authority is exhibiting on the Scottish Ports stand (185) at Seatrade Europe in Hamburg from 25-27 September, 2007.