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Signs of optimism at harbour

PUBLISHING its half yearly traffic statistics on Wednesday, Lerwick Port Authority said they had detected the first signs of economic recovery.

Port deputy chief executive Victor Sandison said that the period between January and June 2010 had ended on a positive note with cargo showing signs of recovery.

Other areas such as the passenger sector had shown a strong performance. The port also recorded a small rise in vessel arrivals and oil related shipping during the months of June.

Despite the decrease in oil-related activity between January and June, overall traffic was up on the same period in 2009, with total vessel arrivals at 2,765 rising 0.8 per cent and the tonnage by 7.3 per cent at 4.3 million gross tonnes.

There was a 14 per cent increase in pilotage movements to 486, with the gross tonnage of vessels piloted rising 60 per cent to 2,826,588 gross tonnes, mainly due to larger vessels using the port.

Activity levels earlier in the year meant that cargo for the six months showed a 1.9 per cent decrease to 379,170 tonnes.

There was a 19 per cent increase in passengers to 66,546, with ferry passengers on the scheduled services to the Scottish mainland and Orkney up by 8 per cent to 56,723 and the cruise season, which started in May and continued to build through June, bringing 9,823 passengers so far, a rise of 164 per cent.

Mr Sandison said: “The grounds for cautious optimism seen in the first quarter strengthened by mid-year, with further signs of a gradual recovery in activity.

“Cruise ships are expected to deliver a record season and there were indications of an upturn in key sectors such as cargo and oil-related traffic.”

Fish landings, however, continue to decrease with problems due to the limited number of days-at-sea available to the whitefish fleet.

Mr Sandison said: “The increased average price for white fish is not able to counteract the drop in volume.”

Fish landings totalled 32,508 tonnes, valued at £26.2 million, down 13 per cent on volume and 21 per cent on value.

The 5,028 tonnes of white fish landed were valued at £8 million, a drop of 13 per cent on volume and 9 per cent on value. The price per tonne increased 5 per cent to average £1,592 per tonne.

In the pelagic sector, winter mackerel landings were down in volume and value, with remaining tonnage to be taken in the autumn fishery.

There were landings of blue whiting to Shetland Catch for human consumption and a limited quantity landed at Heogan, Bressay, for fishmeal during the first quarter of the year.