Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Port’s mixed fortunes

Anchor chains for a replacement vessel serving the Schiehallion oil field have been delivered to Lerwick Harbour for temporary storage. Photo: Alexander Simpson

LERWICK Harbour has enjoyed mixed fortunes in the opening quarter of 2014 with a big upturn in oil and fishing-related activity balanced against bad weather hitting the amount of passenger traffic.

Cargo across the port’s near 4,000 metres-worth of quays increased 19 per cent to over 280,000 tonnes compared with the same period in 2013.

That included over 43,000 tonnes of oil-related shipments, a rise of 60 per cent due to the movement of heavy items such as offshore anchor chains, and increased supplies. Fish landings totalled nearly 33,000 tonnes with a value of around £33 million – up 40 per cent on volume and 57 per cent on value.

But bad weather in the North Sea hit the scheduled earlier start to the cruise season. Only one of three planned vessels for March was able to reach Lerwick, bringing over 600 passengers.

A combination of January’s poor weather and biennial refits for the two ro-ro ferries on the Aberdeen and Kirkwall routes resulted in reduced sailings. The overall passenger total dropped 11 per cent to 18,500.

Lerwick Harbour remained open during severe weather, attracting a large increase in offshore-related supply and standby vessels.

With twice as many supply vessels, the number of offshore vessels rose by 13 per cent to 137, but the tonnage of offshore ships – at over 550,000 gross tonnes – was down 16 per cent with fewer large construction vessels visiting.

Overall ship arrivals for the quarter were down five per cent to 913, with tonnage down 15 per cent at two million tonnes.

There were 286 pilotage movements from January to March – up 10 per cent, with the 1.2 million gross tonnage of vessels piloted down by 21 per cent.

White fish landings totalled 2,261 tonnes valued at £3.4 million. That was down 5.7 per cent on volume but up 4.8 per cent on value, with the price per tonne rising 11 per cent to an average of £1,528.

In the pelagic sector, winter mackerel landings were substantially up in volume and value with landings extending well into February.

However autumn landings are uncertain with a large increase in available quota coinciding with what is expected to be a weak market in places such as Nigeria, Russia and Ukraine.

LPA chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “The January gales meant an unusual start to the year, but with spring here, the cruise and offshore construction seasons are underway.

“While 2013 will be a hard act to follow for activity, we have two new berths available since this time last year. Combined with new laydown sites becoming operational soon, Lerwick has plenty of capacity for offshore projects.”

She added: “Healthy cargo traffic and sustained fish landings are underpinning our next developments, scheduled for later this year.”