Lerwick Harbour attracted higher-than-forecast offshore industry traffic last year as the increasingly buoyant oil and gas sector generated more activity at the deep-water port's expanding facilities.

Figures released by Lerwick Port Authority show that number of offshore industry vessels using Lerwick rose 9% last year to 623, compared with 2011, with the tonnage of shipping at 3 million gross tonnes up 52%. Oil-related cargo jumped 40% to 138,750 tonnes.

Port Authority Chief Executive, Sandra Laurenson, said: “The continuing increase in offshore industry traffic reinforces our investment strategy, including the deep-water quay completed early almost a year ago to meet demand and the commitment to build an extension this year. We are projecting more growth in 2013, with support for ongoing decommissioning work and more field development projects, in particular.

The tonnage of all vessels increased by 11% to 12.5 million gross tonnes, but the overall total of arrivals decreased 4.7% to 5,165, due mainly to roll-on/roll-off ferries out-of-service temporarily for biennial refits and
fewer fishing vessels; sail training ships – compared with 2011 when the Tall Ships Races visited; and yachts, due to poor weather.

There were 15% more pilotage movements during the year at 1,396, reflecting the trend
of larger vessels calling at Lerwick.

As Shetland’s principal commercial port, serving the islands’ communities as well as industries, Lerwick handled 997,474 tonnes of cargo, up 13.3%.

There was a minor increase of 0.8% in passengers to 161,821. While cruise passengers were up by 22% to 37,572, ferry passengers were down by 4% to 124,249, with the largest monthly decrease in March due to
the ferry refits. There was modest growth in ferry passenger numbers in the final quarter of the year.

Fish landings totalled 61,314 tonnes, valued at £50.1 million – down 6.7% on volume and 38% on value. White
fish, at 9,498 tonnes, was valued at £15.2 million – up 4.3% on volume, down 9.6% on value, with the price per tonne down 13% to an average of £1,609 per tonne. Pelagic fish was down 8% on tonnage and 45% on value, with the decrease due to less mackerel landed and a poorer average price, particularly for mackerel.

Sandra Laurenson commented: “There was a strong performance across various sectors in
2012 and the good signs for 2013 aren’t limited to the offshore industry.

“Last year's record cruise season shows what can be achieved by all-round efforts and, with 45 vessels currently booked, we're looking forward to another busy period.

“Recent announcements on annual quotas for white fish are reasonably positive for the industry which deserves all the encouragement it can get. Our support for the sector includes currently building a new quay which will be the location for a proposed replacement whitefish market.”

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