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Marine / Lerwick harbour reaps benefits of growing tourism and fishing

Passenger numbers were up by more than 25 per cent

Lerwick Harbour’s Mair’s Pier provides additional berthing capacity for mid-sized cruise ships. Photo: Calum Toogood/Lerwick Port Authority.
An archive image of cruise ship passengers in Lerwick. Photo: Calum Toogood/Lerwick Port Authority.

BOOMING fishing and tourism sectors boosted activity at Lerwick Harbour in 2018, and the encouraging trends are set to continue in 2019.

Statistics released by Lerwick Port Authority show there were 5,226 vessel arrivals last year, up 6.7 per cent compared to 2017, while the tonnage of shipping entering the deep-water harbour rose by a healthy 10 per cent to12.8 million gross tonnes.

The increases were due mainly to more cruise ships, fishing boats, and roll-on/roll-off ferries on the Northern Isles route, with operator, Serco NorthLink, providing a third freight ferry for peak periods from mid-September until early November.

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Captain Calum Grains said: “While we anticipate another quiet year for offshore industry activity, growing sector interest in West of Shetland and preparations for the arrival in 2020 of the Ninian northern platform topsides for decommissioning at Dales Voe are encouraging.

“So, too, are positive trends seen last year, with a healthy outlook for fishing and another record cruise season, with 113 vessels booked, up over 20 per cent on 2018 and expected to bring 91,000-plus passengers.”

Increases in ferry and cruise ship passenger numbers by over one-quarter in 2018 more than offset a decline in oil-related arrivals and freight.

Lerwick and Shetland’s popularity as a destination for UK and foreign yacht crews continued, with 541 yachts arriving, a two per cent increase.

Cargo in 2018 was down 10 per cent at 832,618 tonnes, reflecting a drop in offshore industry-related arrivals and freight in the current market.

Passenger numbers were up 26.4 per cent to 225,479, including 5.9 per cent more on ferries at 135,143 and a 78 per cent jump in cruise passengers to 90,336 in another record-breaking season.

Record white fish landings, at 250,246 boxes, were up 9.4 per cent on 2017, for an average price of £2,009 per tonne, an increase of five per cent.  In the pelagic sector, more herring was landed over the summer, compared to the previous year, with comparable prices.

Construction of a replacement white fish market, at a cost of £7.6 million, is ahead of schedule, for completion in early 2020.