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LPA upbeat amid ‘mixed fortunes’ in world of shipping

Busy times at Lerwick Harbour's new Holmsgarth North jetty. Photo courtesy of LPA.

LERWICK Harbour had a year of “ups and downs” in 2016 as a result of mixed fortunes, with over 50,000 cruise ship passengers arriving but oil-related arrivals down by nearly a quarter.

That pattern is continuing into 2017, with Lerwick Port Authority (LPA) chief executive Sandra Laurenson looking ahead to another record year for visiting cruise ships, contrasting with a sustained slowdown in oil and gas activity as the global oil price remains low.

“The ups-and-downs in a challenging year were as predicted and the mixed fortunes across the sectors are expected to continue,” she said.

“The cruise industry is heading for a second successive record season in 2017 at Lerwick. Given the circumstances, oil and gas activity met our modest targets for 2016 and will remain quieter in 2017.

“Freight tonnages and ferry passengers held up well, although reflecting completion of onshore energy projects. Fishing has been positive in 2016, with improved value, and anticipated growth is leading to optimism in the sector.

“Our outlook for the future remains positive, with capacity and competitiveness reinforced by completion of projects totalling £30 million, including new quays and expansion of deep-water facilities, including for oil-related decommissioning. Plans for a new whitefish market are at an advanced stage, with a contract award due in the spring.”

Vessel arrivals in 2016, at 5,036, were up 1.3 per cent compared to 2015, with the tonnage of shipping increased by 7.4 per cent to 12.4 million gross tonnes. That reflected a record number of cruise ships, plus more yachts, workboats and salmon vessels, while there were fewer fishing boats and oil & gas vessels.

Oil-related arrivals were down 22.5 per cent at 402, with the tonnage unchanged at 2.6 million gross tonnes due to larger vessels using the port. The downturn in the industry saw oil-related cargo drop 25 per cent to 118,869 tonnes, impacting on overall freight figures which fell 12 per cent to 953,451 tonnes.

There were 1,023 pilotage movements, down 7.6 per cent, while the 10.1 million gross tonnes of vessels handled rose 20 per cent due to cruise ships and larger oil-related vessels.

Passengers through the port increased by 10 per cent to 184,487, thanks to a 67 per cent jump in visitors on cruise ships to a record 50,723.

Numbers on the Aberdeen and Orkney ferry routes held up well following completion of the onshore Shetland Gas Plant and an end to construction workers travelling by sea – passengers decreased by 2.7 per cent to 133,764.

Total fish landings at 57,000 tonnes were valued at £57 million, down 10 per cent on volume and up 21 per cent on value. The 9,800 tonnes of whitefish were valued at £17 million, unchanged on volume and up 9.3 per cent in value, with the average price per tonne up 9.3 per cent to £1,733. Lower volumes of pelagic fish attracted improved prices for the year. 

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