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Marine / Hopeful outlook at port despite continued fall in traffic

Photo: John Coutts

LERWICK Port Authority is hopeful of traffic numbers picking up in the coming months as the progress against Covid-19 continues.

Tonnage of vessels handled at the port dropped 20 per cent in the three months to March 2021, with arrivals down by 11 per cent at 905.

There was a 53 per cent fall in oil-related shipping in the first quarter of 2021, with a small drop in fishing traffic too.

Ferry passengers between Lerwick, Aberdeen and Kirkwall fell 65 per cent to 5,917 during the first three months of the year, which is largely credited to lockdown restrictions prohibiting non-essential travel.

There was, of course, no cruise ship traffic in this period, with the first liners due to arrive in the summer.

Boxes of whitefish landed at the Lerwick fish market was down seven per cent to 45,232, while mackerel throughput fell by nearly 20 per cent.

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Captain Calum Grains said the coming months should bring “slight improvements in activity on the long haul to recovery”.

“Having hopefully weathered the worst of the pandemic and with the success of the vaccine programme and easing of restrictions, we are working towards better times ahead,” he said.

“The UK Government’s decision to allow cruise ships into English ports from 17 May will hopefully be followed soon by the Scottish Government enabling resumption, giving us a part-season and helping rebuild Shetland’s hard-hit tourism industry.

“The recent opening up of UK internal travel should benefit ferry traffic and visiting pleasure craft.

“Whitefish landings have been showing signs of recovery and port-Brexit movement of seafood exports through the EU is slowly improving.

“The offshore decommissioning market is promising and support for the renewable energy sector continues to increase.”