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Varied fortunes for port

The arrival of the Buchan Alpha into Dales Voe for decommissioning in 2017. Photo: Shetland News

LERWICK Port Authority has reported a mixed picture in relation to harbour traffic during 2017.

Highlights included a record number of cruise passengers, the biggest decommissioning project to date and the most boxes of whitefish yet landed in the modern era.

However, compared to 2016 the number and tonnage of vessels calling at Lerwick Harbour was down by 2.8 and 6.4 per cent respectively, as were overall passenger numbers and cargo handled.

LPA chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “A wide range of factors, positive and negative, influenced the different sectors, with activity ending the year in line with expectations.”

The 15,000 gross tonne Buchan Alpha floating production unit arrived for decommissioning at Dales Voe Base in August 2017, an ongoing project and the largest yet at Lerwick to dismantle and dispose of structures.

A reduction in shipments for the oil and gas industry accounted for almost all the drop in overall freight handled – lower by three per cent at 926,827 tonnes.

The fierce but short-lived competition on air services to Shetland resulted in a drop of passenger numbers arriving on board the NorthLink ferries by 4.6 per cent to 127,624.

Meanwhile, the port served a record of 50,768 visitors arriving on board of cruise ships.

Whitefish landings continued to grow and reached a total of 228,651 boxes handled at Lerwick, the highest since the 1980s, and an increase of 7.7 per cent in volume.

The value of whitefish landings jumped by 24 per cent to 21 million.

Laurenson added that the overall outlook for 2018 was broadly similar to last year.

“Positives include a continuing strong performance in the white fish sector; record cruise ship activity, a likely recovery in ferry passenger numbers and slowly improving potential for future offshore-related projects,” she said.

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