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Marine / More signs of recovery at Lerwick Harbour but ‘long way to go’ yet

Lerwick Harbour. Photo: Ryan Leith

LERWICK Port Authority activity is “heading slowly in the right direction” in the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, chief executive Captain Calum Grains warned that there is a “long way to go to get back to normal levels”.

He was speaking after the port released activity figures for 2021.

They show improvements in various sectors in the 12 months to December, compared to 2020 which was also impacted by the pandemic.

There was a 20 per cent increase in number of oil-related vessel arrivals, but a 7.5 per cent decrease in tonnage at 1,186,226 gross tonnes in 2021, compared against 2020 figures which included delivery of the Ninian Northern topside for decommissioning.

The figures included a jump in diving and offshore support vessels working on installation, repair and maintenance programmes.

Oil-related cargo movements were up 10 per cent to 60,180 tonnes. “The activity levels in the oil sector are encouraging, but – as in other areas of operations – must be viewed against a very poor year in 2020 because of Covid-19,” Grains said.

There were 4,168 vessel arrivals overall – down five per cent, although tonnage of shipping was up nine per cent at 8,902,647 gross tonnes.

Pilotage movements were up 12 per cent at 609, due mainly to the cruise season reopening and more oil-related traffic.

Total cargo for the twelve-month period reached 883,844 tonnes – up 17 per cent overall and 14 per cent on ferry cargo from Aberdeen.

Overall passenger numbers almost doubled for the year, with a 92 per cent increase to 111,035 due to lifting of Covid restrictions and the cruise restart.

Ferry passengers, up 81 per cent to 102,393 in the second half of the year, have yet to return to previous levels. A brief 2021 cruise season saw 18 vessels, including new-build ships and new operators visiting for the first time, carrying 8,642 cruise passengers.

There was a nine per cent drop in fishing vessels using the port, but whitefish landings remained steady at 204,534 boxes, down less than a percent on the previous year.

The port said the impacts of reduced demand in the hospitality sector, Brexit challenges and reductions in available quotas were still being felt through various stages of the year.

Grains added: “On the back of current trends, there are cautiously positive signs for the year ahead. Throughput will continue for the onshore Viking wind farm and we continue to explore opportunities for supporting future renewables projects.

“There should be good news on the decommissioning front and a continued gradual upturn in oil and gas activity. Whitefish landings are expected to remain at similar levels in the foreseeable.

“We are encouraged about the recovery in domestic and international cruising, with more than 120 vessels booked currently to call and exciting prospects of seeing well-known customers returning and new brands and vessels, with 16 maiden calls this season.”