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Marine / Numbers continue to rise for port authority

Photo: John Coutts

INCREASING activity at Lerwick Harbour in the third quarter of the year has underlined the port’s ongoing recovery from Covid.

Lerwick Port Authority received a welcome boost from passenger traffic, with overall passenger numbers at 175,491 for January-September showing a rise of 105 per cent on the same period in 2021 as Covid restrictions lifted and operations returned to nearer pre-pandemic levels.

After a two-year gap, the cruise season returned positively from March to September this year, with 58,450 passengers on 94 vessels compared to 8,642 in 2021 when only 18 ships arrived due to the restrictions.

Ferry passengers on the Aberdeen-Kirkwall routes between January-September were up 52 per cent to 117,041.

Lerwick’s role in marine tourism was restored with visiting yacht levels boosted to 590 arrivals – including the welcome return of Round Britain and Ireland and Shetland-Bergen Race competitors – 13 per cent higher than pre-Covid figures.

The harbour handled 2,187 ships in the first nine months, up 11 per cent on the same period in the previous year, with the tonnage reaching 5,954,570 gross tonnes, an increase of 61 per cent.

The recovery in cruise activity was reflected in pilotage movements being up 39 per cent with 643 movements and 10,942,783 gross tonnes of vessels assisted, a jump of 203 per cent.

Port authority chief executive Captain Calum Grains said: “Third quarter increases in the volume and tonnage of traffic show positive signs of moving towards pre-covid levels of activity and the steady progress back to more normal times.

“There is still a way to go in current national and international circumstances, with each sector having shared and specific issues to deal with.”

Cargo for the nine-month period to end-September totalled 688,774 tonnes, up six per cent, while a seven per cent increase in roll-on/roll-off ferry cargo was largely attributable to materials delivered for the Viking Energy wind farm project.

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Turbine components for Viking are expected to arrive from December 2022, continuing into 2023. 

With fewer supply vessels using the port, oil-related cargo was down 26 per cent to 35,135 tonnes. However, there was a two per cent increase in oil-related arrivals which included more standby vessels.

Tonnage of offshore industry shipping rose 53 per cent to 816,051 gross tonnes.

While there was a 12 per cent drop in fishing vessels at Lerwick, the 160,927 boxes of whitefish landed were up nine per cent compared to the same nine-month period in 2021.

Average price per tonne and landing volumes for the year are holding up.

Grains added: “While there are challenges, there is much to look forward to, including potentially a record-breaking cruise season in 2023, with bookings so far suggesting vessel arrivals, tonnage and passengers all rising by more than 50 per cent.

“Discussions continue on future decommissioning projects and our related plan for an Ultra-Deep-Water Quay is progressing. 

“Recent licensing of offshore acreage for oil and gas exploration is positive while successful bids in offshore wind farm leasing raises prospects of new activity and is focusing discussions with developers.

“There are hopes of good news for the fishing industry during Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and quotas negotiations.”

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