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Marine / Latest figures highlight impact of Covid-19 on Lerwick Port Authority

The port, however, says there are a number of positives going forward

The replacement Lerwick fishmarket receives its first whitefish landings from local vessel Sedulous LK308, overseen by Skipper John Wishart. Photo: John Coutts

LERWICK Port Authority is looking to the positives despite latest figures highlighting the impact of Covid-19.

Between January and June vessel arrivals, at 1,977, were down 18 per cent on the same period last year.

Although there was an eight per cent increase in fishing boats, there was a 41 per cent drop in oil-related vessels, with overall tonnage falling by 37 per cent.

Cargo handled was down 15 per cent at 340,272 tonnes, and with only two cruise ship visits and restricted travel on the NorthLink ferries, overall footfall decreased by 77 per cent to 21,019.

The decommissioning of the Ninian Northern platform at Dales Voe has been described as one of projects that will drive economic recovery. Photo: Jim Mullay

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Captain Calum Grains said: “The impact of the pandemic has been felt increasingly across all sectors and continues to depress operations in the current period, with traffic at the lowest level in a number of years.

“However, there are developments amid the downturn which provide some opportunity for increased activity.”

The port said the new replacement Lerwick fishmarket, which opened in August, is “encouraging steady landings and prices”.

The 14,200 tonne Ninian Northern oil rig topside arrived into Dales Voe recently for decommissioning – the largest project of its type be hosted by Lerwick Port Authority.

The port added that bookings for the 2021 cruise season are “strong”, although the situation remains uncertain.

It said that it is “well-placed” to service the onshore and offshore renewable energy sector, while recent allocation of blocks for oil and gas exploration to the west of Shetland, and the northern North Sea, is “potentially good news” for the port.

The ability of the fishing fleet to remain operational during lockdown, albeit on a reduced basis, has lessened the impact on the sector, with 98,746 boxes of whitefish landed in the first half of the year, a decrease of 16 per cent.

The herring season is said to be off to a good start and follows a strong spring mackerel fishery in the first quarter which gave an early boost to pelagic figures.