The importance of access and facilities for larger vessels at Lerwick Harbour is underlined by annual figures released by the Port Authority for 2006.

While visiting cruise ships fell by five to 43 compared to 2005, their gross tonnage increased by 25% to 962,940 gross tonnes, with the number of cruise passengers up by 48% at 25,966.

The tonnage of oil-related vessels also rose – by 19.6% on the previous year to 1,317,475 gross tonnes, reflecting both the larger vessels now calling and a continuing increase in the total, up 33% at 488.

There was also a 5% increase to 4,883,826 gross tonnes in the vessels requiring the services of the Authority’s three pilots to enter and leave the Shetland port.

The total number of vessels rose by 5.5% to 5,281, while the overall tonnage of shipping reduced by 5.2%, due to fewer visits by Smyril Line’s ferry Norrona on Scandinavian and North Atlantic routes.

Cruise ships contributed to the continuing increase in total passengers – up 7% at 157,385, including a 1.5% rise in ferry passengers to 131,419 at the port which is also served by NorthLink.

A decrease in the export of frozen fish was the main reason for a decline in cargo handled in 2006 – down 8.7% at 788,413 tonnes.

Total fish landings for the year added up to 104,260 tonnes, worth £48.8 million – down 6% on volume and 14.6% on value. The figures include white fish, up 22% on volume and 47% on value at 8,809 tonnes and £12.9 million, with the average price per tonne rising 20% to £1,467.

Mackerel landings were down due to the restricted quota, while herring landings increased.

Landings to the fish meal and oil plant at Heogan, Bressay, were down on tonnage but up in value at 26,441 tonnes and £2.3 million.

Shellfish landings for the year also rose in value to over £1.1 million.

Allan Wishart, Lerwick Port Authority’s Chief Executive, said: “The figures back up the recent economic assessment which showed that the port is successfully pursuing growth through diversification and also support our strategy of further developing the facilities required for opportunities and larger vessels.”

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