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Marine / Pandemic and low oil and gas prices result in ‘severe downturn’ in numbers at port

A busy Mair's Pier earlier this summer. Photo: LPAPhoto: LPA

NEW figures on activity in the port of Lerwick show “severe downturns” caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the drop in oil and gas prices.

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Calum Grains said the “double blow has hit all sectors”, including the supply chain in Shetland.

In the three months to the end of March, vessel arrivals into the port of Lerwick were down three per cent to 1,015 compared to the same period last year.

Overall tonnage was down 0.4 per cent to 1,952,522 gross tonnes, while oil-related tonnage dropped by 15.3 per cent.

Total cargo was down 4.6 per cent to 165,060 tonnes.

The overall footfall at the port dropped by 13.7 per cent to 18,220, with NorthLink Ferries passenger numbers down by 17.4 per cent as it started to implement restrictions on travel.

That figure will have dropped sharply since as the service was reduced to essential travel only in mid to late March. The full extent of the downturn will become clearer once figures for the second quarter of the year are published later this year.

With reduced demand from overseas and UK caterers, whitefish landings were down 21.5 per cent to 48,462 boxes.

Oil-related cargo rose by 10.5 per cent to 11,022 tonnes, however, due partly to the delivery of anchoring equipment for storage prior to installation offshore.

Cruise ship passengers in the three months to the end of March was up by 70 per cent due to two early-season arrivals.

Captain Grains said that the Covid-19 crisis has halted work on the port’s new fish market which was due to be opened this spring.

“The statistics demonstrate the harsh facts and the seriousness of the situation, not just for the port, but also the local supply chain,” he said.

“We are seeking to alleviate the effects wherever possible and to look to the future, but there is limited scope meantime among so many unknowns.

“When the time is right, the safe lifting of restrictions would allow completion of our new whitefish market, sustaining and developing the fishing industry.

“New operating protocols will undoubtedly be required by the hard-hit cruise industry before resuming sailings.”