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Huge harbour profits projected

The council's port operation at Sullom Voe.

SHETLAND Islands Council expects to earn £5.4 million from its port operations next year thanks to cost cutting measures and above inflation increases in harbour dues at Sullom Voe and the islands’ smaller harbours.

However, a significant amount of any extra profits will have to be used to fill a £7.6 million gap in the local authority’s pension fund created when Shetland Towage was transferred to the SIC, in 2009.

The council’s harbour board will hear next week that such optimistic income projections were realistic despite reduced throughput at the oil and gas terminal.

The board will be told that during the current financial year the council’s harbour operation is in line to make a £2.1 million profit, well below the target of £4 million.

However, as of next year that picture will change dramatically as staffing costs at the council run port have been reduced by £1.2 million.

Proposed increases in harbour dues by 5.5 percent should generate a further £2.1 million, a joint report by the council’s head of finance, Hazel Sutherland, and harbour master Roger Moore said.

They propose to meet the £7.6 million Shetland Towage pension fund deficit by four instalments from the projected harbour account surpluses between 2012/13 and 2015/16.

Ms Sutherland said that such a strategy would also allow for a further £2.2 million to be used on council services and projects, while the remainder, around £1.2 million, could be used to help rebuild the  SIC’s reserves.

Board members will meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the proposal to increase harbour dues, including a suggestion not to increase charges for landing fish or shellfish.

Already, the harbour users panel has expressed its disappointment at the proposed increases but had also accepted its necessity.