LERWICK Port Authority has appointed Ronnie Gair as its new board chairman to replace the departing Brian Anderson, with Ocean Kinetics managing director John Henderson installed as deputy chairman.
Gair takes over from Anderson, who is retiring as a board member after 23 years, and says is he is looking forward to the challenging of continuing the work of the authority, which had been “ably led” by his predecessor.
The 62 year old said there was plenty to look forward to with significant decommissioning work soon to arrive and a new fishmarket to be built.
Earlier this month, three board members were appointed to the authority following recruitment of applicants from the business sector. Gair and Henderson have been re-appointed to the board, while Steven Hutton is also joining. Each will serve a three-year term.
Former garage owner and guizer jarl Gair first joined the board in 1999 for an initial four years, returning again in 2007.
He described himself as passionate about the port and said he was “honoured and humbled” by the appointment. Gair used to love going to the herring sales with his father, who was a fish merchant all his working life, as a boy.
“The port of Lerwick is the heart of Lerwick, the heart of Shetland,” Gair told Shetland News, “and I think anything that comes into the port, out of the port, it breathes life into the economy, and that’s what I love about it.”
Following last week’s official opening of the new Mair’s Pier in the north part of town – a £16.5 million development representing the largest capital project the LPA has ever undertaken – the next big item on the agenda is a much-needed new fishmarket.
Lerwick is the second-largest fishing port in Britain and, while much of the industry clamours for Brexit, in the meantime the sector appears to be in rude health.
“The fishmarket we’ve got in Lerwick is too small,” Gair says. “Fishing is booming, we just need to get it going. Fishing is one of the most important things in Shetland. We’re in the middle of the North Sea, the right place, fish prices high, everything is on track – let’s just keep it going.”
The visiting cruise ship industry continues to go from strength to strength. An estimated 62,000 passengers on 76 vessels are expected in Lerwick over the course of the 2017 season – with that set to increase to 90 vessels with around 93,000 passengers next year.
Gair said Shetland had a reputation as “clean, green and friendly” and was continuing to prove “a very popular destination” for cruise ship companies.
Part of the purpose of Mair’s Pier is to cater for that demand, but his predecessor Anderson spoke last week of his vision for a “fantastic facility” to be built stretching from the Malakoff to Victoria Pier in the heart of the old town. Gair stressed it “is an idea that’s there on the shelf”, but “it depends upon money”.
Within the next few weeks the first decommissioning rig is expected at the upgraded Dale’s Voe facility. Gair described that as a “big, big job, but hopefully the first of many that’s going to come to Shetland”.