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Marine / Tough times for port authority but vaccine offers ‘glimmer of light’

Photo: John Coutts

THIS coming year will be “financially challenging” again for Lerwick Port Authority – but chief executive Calum Grains believes there are some glimmers of hope.

The harbour authority has been hit hard by the Covid pandemic as well as the downturn in the oil and gas industry.

Vessel arrivals in 2020, at 4,401, were down by 13 per cent on the previous year.

Tonnage of shipping dropped by over one third to 8,150,990 gross tonnes, and oil-related traffic was down by 34 per cent.

There was a 74 per cent decrease in overall passenger numbers, with only two cruise ships calling and travel on the NorthLink ferries restricted for parts of the year.

The number of whitefish boxes was down by 11 per cent, although the tonnage of pelagic fish landed was up by one quarter.

Grains said the port authority is ready to welcome cruise ships again once it is safe for the vessels to travel, and he added that the port authority will have involvement in the Viking Energy wind farm and subsea interconnector construction projects.

“The severe downturn of activity in 2020 overshadowed the good news, with the opening of our new fishing market and the arrival of the Ninian Northern oil platform’s topside for decommissioning demonstrating our commitment to sustaining and developing these industries,” he said.

“Uncertainties will continue in every sector for 2021 which will be another challenging year financially. The Covid vaccination programme adds to glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel.

“With strong forward bookings, and any necessary measures implemented, we will be ready to support the return of cruise ships when the time is right. Access for fish to EU markets post-Brexit is improving gradually.

“Building on Lerwick’s reputation as a leader in decommissioning, further contracts continue to be pursued, and there is also potential for supporting new installation work.

“Growing involvement with the renewables sector will see construction materials for the Viking windfarm handled and support for works related to the installation of an interconnector to the Scottish mainland.”

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