Slowly improving trend ongoing into 2022

A gradual recovery in activity at Lerwick Harbour continued in the fourth quarter 2021 in the wake of Covid-19, with the year ending on a cautiously positive note.

Annual figures released by Lerwick Port Authority show improvements in various sectors in the 12 months to December, compared to 2020 which was also impacted by the pandemic.

There was a 20% increase in number of oil-related vessel arrivals, but a 7.5% decrease in tonnage at 1,186,226 gross tonnes in 2021, compared against 2020 figures which included delivery of the Ninian Northern topside for decommissioning. The figures included a jump in diving and offshore support vessels working on installation, repair and maintenance programmes. Oil-related cargo movements were up 10% to 60,180 tonnes.

“The activity levels in the oil sector are encouraging, but – as in other areas of operations – must be viewed against a very poor year in 2020 because of Covid-19,” said Captain Calum Grains. Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive. “We’re heading slowly in the right direction, with a long way to go to get back to normal levels.”

There were 4,168 vessel arrivals overall – down 5%, although tonnage of shipping was up 9% at 8,902,647 gross tonnes. Pilotage movements were up 12% at 609, due mainly to the cruise season reopening and more oil-related traffic.

Total cargo for the twelve-month period reached 883,844 tonnes – up 17% overall and 14% on roll-on/roll-off ferry cargo from Aberdeen.

Overall passenger numbers almost doubled for the year, with a 92% increase to 111,035 due to lifting of covid restrictions and the cruise restart. Ferry passengers, up 81% to 102,393 in the second half of the year, have yet to return to previous levels.

A brief 2021 cruise season saw 18 vessels, including new-build ships and new operators visiting for the first time, carrying 8,642 cruise passengers.

There was a 9% drop in fishing vessels using the port, but whitefish landings remained steady at 204,534 boxes, down less than a percent on the previous year. The impacts of reduced demand in the hospitality sector, Brexit challenges and reductions in available quotas were still being felt through various stages of the year.

Captain Grains added: “On the back of current trends, there are cautiously positive signs for the year ahead. Throughput will continue for the onshore Viking windfarm and we continue to explore opportunities for supporting future renewables projects.

“There should be good news on the decommissioning front and a continued gradual upturn in oil & gas activity. Whitefish landings are expected to remain at similar levels in the foreseeable.

“We are encouraged about the recovery in domestic and international cruising, with more than 120 vessels booked currently to call and exciting prospects of seeing well-known customers returning and new brands and vessels, with 16 maiden calls this season.”

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