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Marine / Calls for more small cruise ships to visit ports outside Lerwick

Scalloway.

THERE were calls in the Shetland Islands Council chamber on Wednesday morning for investigations into attracting more small cruise ships to ports outwith Lerwick, such as Scalloway.

Shetland Central councillor Davie Sandison told the SIC’s harbour board on Wednesday that there were “great opportunities” with the tourism industry.

It came after Shetland South member Robbie McGregor said the SIC should be looking to explore all possible new revenue streams from harbour activities, such as cruise calls, amid fewer tanker movements at Sullom Voe.

Less tankers going into Sullom Voe means less income coming into the harbour account, and there has been a downward trend as the oil industry slows.

Figures presented on Wednesday’s meeting showed that the harbour account surplus is estimated, at the moment, to come £2 million under budget by the end of the financial year mainly due to fewer oil tanker movements.

This year all surplus from the harbour income will go into the council’s general fund.

The projected revenue outturn at quarter two is a surplus of £16.476 million, a reduction of £2.084 million on budget.

Supporting the idea of looking into other income streams, McGregor said cruise passengers would enjoy waking up in a place like Scalloway and seeing the castle and the history of the village.

It comes after a push within some in the Northmavine community for small cruises to anchor off Collafirth and bring passengers ashore to the pier there.

McGregor questioned if Lerwick, which is operated by the town’s port authority, was near capacity in terms of cruise liners.

And he suggested looking into bringing more cruise ships into Shetland’s council run ports.

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.

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SIC infrastructure director John Smith said the local authority’s ports, other than Sullom Voe, are multi-purpose.

But he stressed that any ports taking in cruise passengers would need certain shore infrastructure and facilities.

Smith also said there is a limit to the scale of ships which can call into places like Scalloway and Baltasound.

“We do need to I guess engage with the market and see what they’ve got and what we can bring to that party,” Smith said.

He added that it would be a valuable income stream “but not necessarily a huge one”.

Sandison said he agreed “100 per cent” that the council should be exploring opportunities for small scale cruise ship activity.

“If we have the right shoreside infrastructure to support it, that’s the key thing,” he said.

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