The high level of oil-related activity in northern UK waters continues to be reflected in shipping operations at Lerwick Harbour where the sector showed further increase in the first quarter of this year.

The number of offshore industry vessels using Lerwick increased by 45% on the same period in 2005 to 90, with the tonnage of shipping up 48%, at almost 255,000 gross tonnes.

A variety of vessels - supply, seismic, diving support, pipe-lay and standby safety – have called this year so far, and have included increased shipments of drill cuttings for processing at the Shetland Oiltools Ltd recycling facility. The tonnage of oil-related cargo rose 192% to 19,262 tonnes.

Ferry traffic also made a significant contribution in the first quarter, with passenger numbers up 6.3% at 17,910 as a result of more using the NorthLink service between the Northern Isles and Aberdeen and, in March, the Smyril Line service, calling at Lerwick en route between The Faroe Islands and Denmark.

A combination of no visits by Smyril Line’s ferry, Norrona, in January and February and the early closure of the winter mackerel fishery influenced the overall first quarter performance, with the total number of vessels down 14.6% at 985 and volume of shipping, at just over 2,000,000 gross tonnes, a decrease of 20%. Reflecting the drop in frozen mackerel shipped out, overall cargo handled fell 17% to 184,558 tonnes.

Landings and value of pelagic fish dropped by a third to 19,000 tonnes and £13.8 million. Industrial fish to the plant at Heogan held steady at 19,000 tonnes, with the value up 45% to £1.6 million.

With the “Land in Shetland” campaign continuing to deliver positive results, white fish landings for the quarter were up 20% at 1,826 tonnes, with the value increased by 43% at £2.2 million. Price per tonne rose 19% to £1,242.

Allan Wishart, Chief Executive of Lerwick Port Authority, said: “Following mixed fortunes across different sectors in the first quarter, we are now getting into the high season for oil-related and cruise ship activity and look forward to a busy period at the port.”

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