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Business / Activity down at Lerwick harbour but signs of optimism give hope

The platform after it arrived last year. Photo: Rory Gillies/Shetland Flyer Aerial Media

LERWICK Port Authority, along with most businesses up and down the county, continues to be severely affected by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost all markers were down compared to where the port was last year at this time, but there was also some positive news, namely the opening of the new fish market at Mair’s Pier and the arrival of the Northern Ninian topside for decommissioning.

Oil related arrivals at the port dropped by almost half during the third quarter of year, a result of the low oil price and the ongoing pandemic.

The overall tonnage of shipping dropped 40 per cent to 6,115,404 gross tonnes.

Port chief executive Captain Calum Grains said: “We are seeing the dire effects of the pandemic across harbour operations and the Shetland economy, and continue to do everything possible to operate safely, while making the most of business opportunities.

“The latest statistics for the third quarter show reduced traffic continuing from the first half of the year, caused by the virus and the downturn in oil prices which gives the offshore industry its own challenges.”

Overall passenger numbers for the year to date, at 44,958, were down 77 per cent, largely due to the cancellations of the cruise ship season, with ferry passengers on the Aberdeen and Kirkwall routes lower by 64 per cent at 43,459.

Captain Grains added: “The latest quarter has also seen a number of positives, among them the opening of the new state-of-art whitefish market and volumes of fish landed beginning to recover from earlier in the year.

“The arrival of the Ninian Northern topside – the port’s biggest decommissioning project yet – meant the inauguration of another heavy duty decommissioning pad and we are involved in active enquiries for future projects.

“There are strong cruise bookings for 2021, although changes are anticipated as the industry works through the lengthy process for gradually restarting.”