An increase in fishing vessels using Lerwick Harbour was the largest single factor behind an 11.4% rise to 4,256 in arrivals at the Shetland port in the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period in 2007.

Between January and September, 1,712 boats – up 14% - landed a total of 92,706 tonnes of fish, valued at £ 43.2 million, up 10% on volume and 25% on value.

The figures included 7,704 tonnes of white fish, with a value of £ 12.1 million, up 15% on volume, and 22% on value, with the price per tonne up 6.2% to average £1,575 per tonne.

Pelagic fish landings were also higher, up 16% on volume and 33% on value, including blue whiting landed for human consumption. Deliveries to a fish meal and oil factory held steady. Shellfish landings rose 70%, compared to the same period last year.

Lerwick Port Authority, Chief Executive, Sandra Laurenson, said: “The fishing industry is having a busy year and continues to be a cornerstone of activity at the harbour where we have also seen a further increase in cargo, including offshore industry shipments.”

The port handled 703,475 tonnes of cargo, up 8%, including oil-related shipments increased 16% at 116,949 tonnes.

Oil-related vessel arrivals were up – by 8.5%, reflecting an increase in supply ships, but fewer specialist vessels and the fact Lerwick is no longer a port-of-call for the roll-on/roll-off ferry, Norrona, saw the overall tonnage of shipping down 10.8% at 7.2 million gross tonnes. There were 958 pilotage movements during the nine-month period, down 2.3%, with the 4.4 million gross tonnes of vessels piloted down 7.6%.

With passenger numbers down 5% at 107,891 Sandra Laurenson added: “The loss of the Norrona service in particular, increased competition for ferries from air travel and weather disrupting calls by cruise ships has meant reduced traffic this year.”

A total of 40 cruise ships – including the largest yet – are already booked for 2009, up on the figure at this time in past years.

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