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Bid to make isles appeal to more cruise ships

The cruise ship Celebrity Silhoutte in Lerwick last summer. Photo: David SpenceEven more cruise ship passengers will visit Shetland in 2019. Photo: David Spence

THERE is significant potential for growth in the number of cruise ships visiting Shetland, the SIC’s harbour board heard on Friday.

In an effort to promote the islands as a go-to destination for liners, plans to lower charges for cruise ships docking in the isles are included in budget proposals for the next financial year.

Cruise ships berthed at a pier would only have to pay 14p per gross tonnage instead of the current 50p, while the fee for every passenger that disembarks would reduce from £2.69 to £1.65.

Ports and harbour executive manager John Smith told councillors that reducing some charges was a “preparatory step” to see whether Shetland can expand its attraction to cruise ships.

The move, which would bring the fees in line with the rest of the north of Scotland, should be welcomed as a way of “selling Shetland”, Smith said.

SIC’s director of infrastructure Maggie Sandison said after the meeting that the council was responding to a general rise in demand.

She said there was a potential for more adventure cruises to visit the isles in smaller ports like Fair Isle and Scalloway.

“More and more people are using cruises as their holidays, which is maybe due to people’s confidence about safety in other places,” Sandison said.

“The projections are that more of the adventure style cruises might be developed as well. We recognise that some people for instance might want to go to Fair Isle, or our more rural ports, to get a different experience from the big ships.

“We certainly think there’s opportunities for Scalloway and maybe even Cullivoe.”

Harbour board members agreed to recommend that the SIC adopts the charge changes when it confirms its budget next week.

Last year saw a record-breaking number of cruise ship passengers visit Shetland, with over 50,000 people travelling to Shetland on a total of 78 liners.

The largest cruise ship ever to visit the isles, the 122,210 gross tonne Celebrity Silhouette, docked in August.

At least three records are expected to be broken again this year.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021