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Third floatel should ease bed shortage

The floatel Kalmar in Lerwick town centre - Photo: Ian Leask

OIL company Petrofac plan to bring a third accommodation barge to Lerwick harbour in late September to house the growing workforce building the £800 million gas plant at Sullom Voe.

The company are currently negotiating with Lerwick Port Authority where to berth the barge, which will have 100 single occupancy rooms, half the size of the two existing barges at Morrison Dock and Albert Wharf.

The site under discussion has been Mair’s Yard, next to the Holmsgarth ferry terminal, where the port authority are preparing to build a new fish market.

However LPA chief executive Sandra Laurenson said they were waiting for more information about how long the barge would be staying before deciding where it should go.

The company would not confirm that it has only ordered a smaller barge because that was all that was available at the moment.

The barge will arrive too late to ease the current shortage of beds for tourists in the isles due to the influx of around 2,000 construction workers to build the Total gas plant and refurbish BP’s Sullom Voe oil terminal.

While holidaymakers who have booked in advance are finding places, others are having to be flexible if they want to have a room to stay in.

The subject of accommodation came up in this week’s meeting of the Shetland Tourism Association, where Visit Shetland manager Steve Mathieson said that everyone who had approached the local tourist office had found somewhere.

Until the end of the season when the figures are added up the shortage of beds remains a matter of hearsay, but several people are saying they are hearing of people not being able to find accommodation.

One said that business travellers coming to Shetland on non-oil related matters were having to delay their trip by two weeks due to the lack of rooms, which she described as “a nuisance”.

Andy Steven, of Promote Shetland, said: “Anecdotally we hear there is a problem on different days of the week – it is a mixed bag that depends on where you are and what day of the week it is.

“People looking for somewhere at short notice mid week are going to struggle, but people with a bit of flexibility or who can book in advance still appear to be getting accommodation.

“There is no question about it, it’s busy and when it’s busy it’s going to be harder to find accommodation, but from my point of view being busy and full up is not necessarily a bad thing.”

STA chairwoman Kathy Coull acknowledged the shortage of beds, but said as far as she knew everyone was finding somewhere to stay.

She added: “This is a temporary situation because there is this extra accommodation coming on stream. That will free up beds.”

The new 100 bed Moorfield Hotel at Brae is scheduled to open early in August to help alleviate the problem.