Activity in 2017 in line with expectations

Port users at Lerwick Harbour experienced varied fortunes in 2017, with highlights including record cruise passengers, the biggest decommissioning project to date and the most boxes of whitefish yet landed in the modern era.

Figures from Lerwick Port Authority also show the number and tonnage of vessels were down, as were overall passenger numbers and cargo handled, compared with 2016.

"A wide range of factors, positive and negative, influenced the different sectors, with activity ending the year in line with expectations,” said Sandra Laurenson, Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive.

Vessel arrivals reduced 2.8% to 4,896, with the 11.6 million gross tonnes of shipping down 6.4%, due mainly to both roll-on/roll-off ferries being dry-docked for scheduled maintenance; less oil-related vessels in the current downturn; and fewer cargo ships, with some cargo transferring to roll-on/roll-off services.

The tonnage includes the 15,000 gross tonne Buchan Alpha floating production unit which arrived for decommissioning at Dales Voe Base, an ongoing project and the largest yet at Lerwick to dismantle and dispose of structures.

A reduction in shipments for the oil and gas industry accounted for almost all the drop in overall freight handled – lower by 3% at 926,827 tonnes.

Temporary cost-cutting competition on air services between Shetland and the Scottish mainland late last year influenced ferry passenger numbers which decreased 4.6% to 127,624. Cruise ships narrowly set a new passenger record at 50,768. The port served a total of 178,392 passengers, a fall of 3%.

Boxes of white fish landed jumped 7.7% to 228,651, the highest since the 1980s, and with a value up 24% to £21 million. Pelagic volumes and prices were lower for the year.

Sandra Laurenson added: “The overall outlook for 2018 is broadly similar to last year. Positives include a continuing strong performance in the white fish sector; record cruise ship activity, a likely recovery in ferry passenger numbers and slowly improving potential for future offshore-related projects.”

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