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Positive and negative influences on Lerwick Harbour activity

3rd November 2020

Developments contributing to eventual recovery

The level of traffic at Lerwick Harbour continues to be severely impacted by the combined effects of Covid-19 and lower oil prices, with another quarter of reduced activity in line with earlier months.

Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Captain Calum Grains, commented: “We are seeing the dire effects of the pandemic across harbour operations and the Shetland economy, and continue to do everything possible to operate safely, while making the most of business opportunities.

“The latest statistics for the third quarter show reduced traffic continuing from the first half of the year, caused by the virus and the downturn in oil prices which gives the offshore industry its own challenges.”

Total vessel arrivals at the deep-water Shetland port between January-September were down 16% at 3,315 compared to the same period last year, showing a 49% decrease in oil-related arrivals and 7% increase in fishing boats. The overall tonnage of shipping dropped 40% to 6,115,404 gross tonnes.

Cargo for the nine-month period to end-September totalled 559,224 tonnes, down 18%, including a 28% reduction in oil-related freight. Imports during quarter three included windfarm equipment and a new engine for Lerwick Power Station.

Overall passenger numbers for the year to date, at 44,958, were down 77%, largely due to cruise cancellations, with ferry passengers on the Aberdeen-Kirkwall routes lower by 64% at 43,459.

There were 153,385 boxes of whitefish landed, 15% less than the same nine-month period in 2019. In the pelagic sector, a successful herring fishery has been completed, with the mackerel season now underway.

Captain Grains added: “The latest quarter has also seen a number of positives, among them the opening of the new state-of-art whitefish market and volumes of fish landed beginning to recover from earlier in the year. 

“The arrival of the Ninian Northern topside – the port’s biggest decommissioning project yet – meant the inauguration of another heavy duty decommissioning pad and we are involved in active enquiries for future projects. The first phase of support for an offshore mooring system has been completed, with a second phase due in 2021. Oil-related facilities and experience mean Lerwick is well-placed to service renewable energy offshore and onshore.

“There are strong cruise bookings for 2021, although changes are anticipated as the industry works through the lengthy process for gradually restarting.”

Arrival of Ninian Northern at Dales Voe in September provided a welcome boost to third quarter activity at Lerwick Harbour. © Rory Gillies/Shetland Flyer Aerial Media.