Key forecasts met, but challenges mean cautious outlook.
The number of vessels using Lerwick Harbour in the first half of this year increased by 7% to 2,930, due mainly to more fishing boats compared to the same period in 2014 when poor weather affected activity.
Both the overall tonnage of shipping, at 5.5 million gross tonnes, and that of oil-related vessels, at 1.39 million gross tonnes, held steady, although offshore industry arrivals were down 12% at 269, reflecting the sector’s reduced operations in current circumstances.
Oil industry activity levels also impacted on cargo handled, with offshore shipments falling 18% to 75,475 tonnes, pushing total cargo down 13% to 499,179 tonnes for the six months to June.
Total fish landings, at 20,430 tonnes, were valued at £17.7 million – down 42% on volume and 52% on value, reflecting a reduction in mackerel landings in January and February, White fish, at 4,739 tonnes, was valued at £7.1 million – up 1.3% on volume, with the value the same as at the half-year 2014. The white fish price per tonne remained at an average of over £1,500 per tonne.
Passengers on the roll-on/roll-off ferries between Lerwick and Kirkwall and Aberdeen increased by 1.5% to 61,374. A decrease of 36% to 12,168 in visitors arriving by cruise ships reduced the overall passenger total by 7% to 73,542.
Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Sandra Laurenson, said: “The 2016 cruise season is already looking good, with current record bookings for around 70 vessels and a 52,000 passengers.
“Our turnover at half-year is on target and financial performance slightly ahead of forecast in conditions which require extra careful house-keeping.
“A note of caution is added to our outlook by uncertainties over continuing difficult international markets for mackerel and it remains to be seen how this affects landings this autumn, and by the timing of any recovery in oil activity – although the potential for further field development is still there offshore Shetland. We remain confident in the future demand for expanded port facilities, underway, for the oil and fishing industries.”