Mixed fortunes and positive signs for activity

Passenger numbers at Lerwick Harbour increased by 16% to 21,528 in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2014, with ferries and cruise ships both contributing to higher footfall.

With the season underway mid-March, tourists on cruise ships were up more than 2.5 times by the end of the month at 1,462. Shetlanders and visitors on ferries between Lerwick, Kirkwall and Aberdeen increased 12% to 20,066 compared to first quarter 2014 when both roll-on/roll-off ferries were off-service for a time for biennial refits.

Along with more fishing vessels due to better weather, the increased ferry and cruise ship traffic added to the number of arrivals at the Shetland port in the first three months – up 11% at 1,020, and to the higher tonnage of ships – at 2.2 million gross tonnes, an increase of 8%.

Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Sandra Laurenson, said: “The rise in vessel numbers and tonnage, plus the increase in passengers, are very welcome, but a couple of sectors – fishing and oil & gas – have started the year quietly.”

Cargo, at 233,014 tonnes, was down 17%, due partly to better weather conditions reducing demand from oil and gas supply vessels for sheltered Lerwick’s all-weather, cost-effective facilities. A reduction in the export of frozen mackerel in the period is due to a difficult international market, particularly with Russia closed by sanctions and currency devaluation affecting Ukraine’s ability to purchase.

Fish landings totalled 17,745 tonnes, valued at £13.7 million – down 45% on volume and 58% on value. White fish at 2,186 tonnes was worth £3.3 million – down 3% on volume and 2.7% on value, with the price per tonne marginally up at an average of £1,537. In the pelagic sector, winter mackerel landings were half of the volume in the same quarter last year, with the value substantially down.

Ms Laurenson added: “The second quarter brings a build-up in cruise traffic and the offshore industry is into its busy seasonal programme of subsea project support west of Shetland, while a substantial amount of mackerel remains to be caught in the autumn fishery – all of which is good news.”

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