The first cruise ship of 2006 is due into Lerwick Harbour this weekend at the start of another busy season for the Shetland port.
The Nordkapp will berth at Victoria Pier on Sunday, 23 April, bringing over 400 passengers to the islands before departing the same day for Bergen.
A total of 47 cruise ships are booked so far to call at Lerwick in the period to mid-September – just one short of the record 48 in 2003 and 2005. However, with the average size of the ships this year significantly larger than in 2005, the number of cruise passengers is expected to increase by up to 50% to around 26,000.
While smaller vessels berth alongside at Victoria Pier adjacent to the town centre and at Holmsgarth, the trend in bigger ships will see 15 anchor in the sheltered, deep-water port.
Lerwick Port Authority’s response to the trend includes a new floating landing stage to be used by passengers transferring to-and-from anchored vessels. The £150,000 project is providing a 60-metre pontoon which is currently being installed. It can accommodate three tenders simultaneously, speeding-up disembarking and embarking, with the improved segregation of arriving and departing passengers enhancing safety.
Allan Wishart, Chief Executive of Lerwick Port Authority, said: “The number and size of vessels booked is indicative of the cruise industry’s awareness of the excellent facilities at the port and the many quality attractions which the islands offer visitors. It means that Shetland can look forward to another busy season.”
The landing stage is dual purpose and when not in use by cruise ships will provide extra berthing for the increasing number of yachts visiting Lerwick.
*The Norwegian Tall Ship, Statsraad Lehmkuhl will return to Lerwick tomorrow (Friday 21 April) on her first visit of the year. Arriving from Bergen, she will sail in the early evening for Kirkwall.