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Cruise ship boom is highlight for harbour

MSC Meraviglia leaves Lerwick. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

CRUISE ship passenger numbers have jumped a staggering 166 per cent in the first six months of the year – that was the highlight of a Lerwick harbour report that also showed positive growth for demersal fish landings and NorthLink passengers.

The latest activity report from Lerwick Port Authority (LPA) says that passenger numbers in the first half of the anticipated record-breaking cruise season jumped to 37,126, ahead of the peak months of July and August.

According to the port authority, the numbers reflect the ups-and-downs of harbour operations in the current economic climate. Vessel arrivals, tonnage and passenger numbers were up in the first half of 2018, compared to the same period last year, while freight handled was down and fishing experienced mixed fortunes.

Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “The increasing cruise activity and the strong performance by the white fish industry are proving outstanding features this year. The second half is expected to produce more of the same across the various sectors.”

With more fishing boats, salmon carriers, roll-on roll-off ferries and cruise ships, vessel arrivals increased by 2.2 per cent to 2,246, while the tonnage rose 4.6 per cent to 5.4 million gross tonnes.

Although ro-ro ferry cargo was up 17 per cent due to last year’s switch of shipments from a container vessel, overall cargo was down 17 per cent to 368,653 tonnes. Factors included the downturn in offshore operations which also impacted on vessel arrivals and tonnage.

The record cruise ship season and a slight increase in ro-ro operations, owing to less maintenance down-time led to a 33 per cent increase in passengers to 97,177. The two ferries on the Kirkwall and Aberdeen routes carried two per cent more to total 60,051.

White fish landings, at 128,465 boxes, were up seven per cent and made an average price of £1,934 per tonne, an increase of 9.5 per cent. In the pelagic sector, landings of winter mackerel in the first quarter were down.