Working towards an improving situation

The latest traffic statistics from Lerwick Port Authority again show the continuing severe effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the oil industry slump on activity at the Shetland port and the islands’ economy.

Figures for the first quarter 2021 highlight the fall-off in all sectors compared to the same period, pre-Covid lockdown, in 2020.

Captain Calum Grains, Port Authority Chief Exective, said: “Having hopefully weathered the worst of the pandemic and with the success of the vaccine programme and easing of restrictions, we are working towards better times ahead. The coming months should bring slight improvements in activity on the long haul to recovery.”

The tonnage of vessels handled, at 1,560,250 gross tonnes, dropped 20%, in the three months to March, with vessels arriving down 11% at 905, including a 53% fall in oil-related shipping and an 11% decrease in fishing boats.

Cargo was lower by 8% at 151,795 tonnes, including drops of 69% in oil-related shipments and 4% in roll-on/roll-off ferry freight.

Ferry passengers travelling between Lerwick, Aberdeen and Kirkwall, fell 65% to 5,917 during the three months, largely attributable to national lock-down during the period. There were no cruise ship passengers during the quarter which usually sees a gradual start to the season – yet to begin.

There were 45,232 boxes of whitefish landed at Lerwick fishmarket, down 7%. In the pelagic sector, mackerel throughput fell 18%.

Captain Grains added: “The UK Government’s decision to allow cruise ships into English ports from 17 May will hopefully be followed soon by the Scottish Government enabling resumption, giving us a part-season and helping rebuild Shetland’s hard-hit tourism industry. The recent opening up of UK internal travel should benefit ferry traffic and visiting pleasure craft.

“Whitefish landings have been showing signs of recovery and port-Brexit movement of seafood exports through the EU is slowly improving. The offshore decommissioning market is promising and support for the renewable energy sector continues to increase.”

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