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Cruise control

Cruise liners visiting Lerwick last September. Photo LPA/John Coutts

LERWICK Port Authority has welcomed the Scottish government’s decision to tackle the UK Border Agency over immigration checks on cruise ship passengers visiting the isles.

Last summer the UKBA introduced passport checks for all cruise passengers, causing hold ups of up to two hours as hundreds of people waited to get through border controls.

Only the last few vessels visiting Lerwick last year were affected, but there are fears that the delays this year could deter shipping companies from coming to Shetland in the future.

Scottish finance secretary John Swinney told the Convention of the Highlands and Islands in Lerwick on Monday that the UKBA was being “unnecessarily absurd”, especially at a time when they had so many other problems to deal with.

He promised that the government would send a delegation to the border agency to address the issue.

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson said a two hour delay could be disastrous for a cruise ship only visiting Shetland for half a day.

She welcomed the government’s stance on the issue, saying: “We are delighted with any support we can get.

“This is a UK wide problem but we are on an international route rather than a British route, so we are one of the worst affected parts of Scotland.

“The cruise ships have already set their schedules for this year, but if the activities of the UK Border Agency cause a delay or there is unacceptable inconvenience or cost to the cruise liners we won’t be getting them back another year.”