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Marine / Hopes that smaller cruise ships could visit Northmavine

The Collafirth pier and marina. Photo © Mat Tuck (cc-by-sa/2.0)

CRUISE passengers disembarking at Collafirth? That is the hope of some who are keen to see smaller cruise ships stopping off in Northmavine when they visit Shetland.

Former councillor Drew Ratter, who lives in the parish, is leading the project – and he believes it could come to fruition in the next year or two.

“I would credit progress so far entirely to the work done by David Murray, from North Roe, who has been working on this tirelessly for a couple of years now,” Ratter said.

“He has had to pull back for personal reasons, and when he asked me to step in an see whether I could take the project forward, I was more than happy to do so.”

Nearly 130 cruises called into Lerwick this year, with even more scheduled next year.

Occasionally smaller ‘expedition’ cruise ships may also stop off in other parts of Shetland, such as Fair Isle and Unst, with the ship dropping the anchor before passengers head ashore on small boats.

Passengers coming off ships in Lerwick can go on excursions around Shetland, and whilst Northmavine is one destination, it involves a fair bit of time spent on a bus.

Ratter is now leading a project to see if Northmavine can added to cruise itineraries, with the idea being that passengers could come ashore at the Collafirth Pier and experience the area without needing to travel from Lerwick.

He has spoken to officials in ports and harbours as well as economic development, and the companies operating cruise excursions.

Drew Ratter.

Ratter said he first raised the idea of ships coming in and using the Collafirth Pier, but that would need improvements to the facility.

“What will happen initially is that some of the smaller expedition ships…the people that already go into Baltasound and Fair Isle for instance – it would be people like that,” he said.

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“So they would be using Zodiacs [inflatable boats] to come ashore. And after that everything will have to be organised with buses.”

Ratter believes the cliffs and lighthouse in Eshaness is Northmavine’s “jewel in the crown”, but he said there is plenty more to see.

He also suggested that local people could rent a public hall, for instance, and put on a craft sale and refreshments for cruise visitors.

Is it going to happen? “I think that it will happen, yes,” Ratter said, adding that whilst there could be some test excursions next year it may be 2025 before things kick off properly.

Current councillor Tom Morton, who represents Shetland North and lives in the parish, has also supported the idea.

He said there is an “enormous amount to see and do in Northmavine”.

In addition to the pier, which was built in the late 1980s on the site of an old Norwegian whaling station, there is a small marina at Collafirth.

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