Activity across several sectors at Lerwick Harbour has shown signs of recovery in the third quarter of this year, contributing to improved traffic figures for the first nine months compared to the same period in 2020.

Lerwick Chief Executive, Captain Calum Grains, said: "The continuing trend in the third quarter gives us encouragement that we are on the road to recovery from the impact of Covid, albeit on a long haul back to normal."

With a range of offshore industry operations supported at the deep-water Shetland port, there was a 25% increase in oil-related vessel arrivals and a 21% rise in tonnage at 867,362 gross tonnes - including a 93% rise in diving and support ships and 15% in oil-related stand-by and supply vessels servicing installation, repair and maintenance programmes.

A 10% drop in fishing vessels and fewer live fish carrier movements contributed to a 5% fall in overall arrivals to 3,158, although tonnage of vessels increased by 9% to 6,690,019 gross tonnes, largely attributable to cruise ship arrivals.

Total cargo for the nine-month period rose 16% to 647,535 tonnes, including a 13% hike in shipments on the roll-on/roll-off ferry service from Aberdeen, partly due to delivery of materials for the onshore Viking windfarm development.

Passenger numbers jumped 91% to 85,727, with footfall on ro/ro ferries increased by 77% at 77,085 due to lifting of Covid restrictions on domestic travel. The reopening of Scottish ports to cruise ships on domestic voyages in July brought 8,642 passengers to Lerwick, compared to 1,499 in 2020 when the restrictions curtailed the season.

Fish landings earlier in the year were impacted by reduced demand in the hospitality sector, compounded by Brexit and quota challenges. The market handled a total of 148,272 boxes, down 3%.

Captain Grains said: “Quota availability means the outlook for the fishing sector remains challenging as demand increases.

“The successful reopening of the port to cruise ships in the third quarter and strong UK and international bookings for 2022 – again with new operators and a high number of maiden calls – could potentially mean a record season and good news for Shetland.

“We continue to target additional decommissioning work for the offshore industry and progress plans to expand our facilities with a game-changing Ultra-Deep-Water Quay. Current activity includes supporting the installation of mooring equipment on the Penguins redevelopment into 2022, with the Floating Production, Storage and Offloading vessel due offshore in the summer.

“With support for the Viking windfarm project expected to continue over the next three years and offshore wind leasing round bids due to be awarded early 2022, there is the prospect of increased activity in the renewables sector at the port.”

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