NHS Shetland - Survey - March 2021

Downturn at Lerwick harbour

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson remains upbeat about the future despite a downturn in traffic during the first nine months of this year. Photo LPA

SUGGESTIONS that Shetland’s recent economic boom is past its peak have shown up in the latest traffic figures from Lerwick harbour.

For the first time after several years of steady growth, the harbour has recorded a downturn in activity in the three significant sectors of oil and gas, fishing and cruise ships during the first nine months of 2015.

Despite the disappointing figures, Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson remained confident for the future and said the reduced activity levels had been forecast.

“We knew that the peak activity levels we enjoyed in recent years would not continue and our forecasts for the year to date are on target to match our predictions for 2015,” she said.

“Oil and gas activity is at the level we anticipated and overall traffic numbers have held up well.”

However a decline in fish landings of 20 per cent in volume and 39 per cent in value are a cause for concern.

Total fish landings at 37,095 tonnes were valued at £27.1 million during the first nine months.

Whitefish landings are down 2.5 per cent on volume at 7,286 tonnes, and 5.7 per cent on value at £11.1 million. The price per tonne has fallen 3.2 per cent to an average of £1,530.

The more valuable mackerel fishery was down last winter and the autumn fishery has been delayed, raising hopes the final year outcome will be better.

The number of passengers visiting on cruise ships was down by 30 per cent to 30,043, partly due to poor weather at sea leading to cancelled visits.

However the number of people arriving on the NorthLink ferries rose by 0.7 per cent to 142,594.

Meanwhile the total number of vessels arriving in Lerwick harbour between January and September rose by 24 compared to the same period in 2014.

Tonnage was down though by four per cent at 9.2 million gross tonnes, reflecting a decline in the offshore energy and cruise markets.

Cargo handling declined by 11 per cent to 811,018 tonnes, including a 12 per cent drop in offshore shipments.

Laurenson said there were many positive signs for the future, especially in the tourism and fishing sectors.

“More herring has been landed in 2015 and at improved prices; a record-breaking cruise season is booked for 2016, with 70 vessels and more than 50,000 passengers, and the completion of expansion projects next year will reinforce our position as a leading centre for the fishing industry and supporting offshore subsea developments and decommissioning,” she said.