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Diversity helps LPA withstand oil and gas downturn

Attracting a diverse range of shipping industries has enabled the LPA to withstand the downturn in oil and gas.

LERWICK Harbour enjoyed an increase in shipping activity in the first nine months of this year, with a record-breaking cruise ship season helping to more than offset a decline in the number of oil-related vessels.

A total of 3,992 arrivals showed a three per cent increase on 2015, while vessel tonnage was up eight per cent at 10 million gross tonnes.

Lerwick Port Authority (LPA) said the record cruise ship season was a “key factor” in the rises, with more workboats, salmon boats and yachts also making a contribution.

There was a sizeable 21 per cent drop in the number of oil-related vessels, but the bigger average size meant overall tonnage was unchanged at 2.2 million gross tonnes.

LPA harbourmaster and deputy chief executive Captain Calum Grains said: “Vessels contributing to the increases are an indicator of the diversity of shipping at the harbour where the variety of traffic is one of our strengths.

“Our ability to service a wide range of port users is all the more important given the continuing severe downturn in the offshore oil and gas industry.

“Capacity to do so is significantly expanded with the recent completion of two new quays, for use by the oil, fishing and cruise industries in particular.”

Cargo across the port’s more than 4,500 metres of quays between January and September was down 10 per cent at 728,000 tonnes, including an 18.5 per cent drop in offshore industry shipments.

Passenger numbers on the roll-on/roll-off ferries between Lerwick, Kirkwall and Aberdeen held up well, though completion of the construction of Total’s Shetland Gas Plant meant the total dipped 2.4 per cent to 109,452.

However, overall passenger numbers were up nearly 12 per cent to 159,270 thanks to a 63 per cent increase to 49,818 in cruise ship passenger numbers between April an September.

Lerwick’s best cruise season yet ended earlier this month with a record 50,589 passengers, and it is anticipated that 2017 will be another record-breaker.

Total fish landed, at just over 35,000 tonnes, was valued at £31 million – down 5.6 per cent in volume and up 14 per cent in value. The 7,165 tonnes of white fish was cumulatively valued at £12 million, down 1.6 per cent on volume and up 8 per cent in value.

In the pelagic sector, the volume of herring landed was down, but prices improved.