By RYAN TAYLOR
A MAJOR expansion of Lerwick Harbour is being planned, following recent growth in the number of vessels visiting the port.
Members of the harbour board this week gave their backing to a £7 million capital programme that will see the development of new deep water berths and a major new fishmarket.
It follows unprecedented successes at the local fishmarket – which has had to be altered in the meantime after seeing landings reach record levels this year.
In October chief executive of Shetland Fishermen’s Association Hansen Black said fishing boats arriving at Lerwick with bumper catches were having to be turned away from the market in Lerwick because of insufficient space.
LPA’s new strategy and business plan highlights Mair’s Yard north of Holmsgarth as a preferred site for the fishmarket.
It will be developed shortly, using a single storey energy-efficient building with the electronic auction hall and supplementary offices in a separate adjacent building.
Next year will also see the redevelopment of the sea wall at the small boat harbour to improve the amenity of the area, with a new walkway.
The authority is planning to replace the wooden deck at the small boat harbour used largely by sailors with a new, larger deck in order to improve safety.
The resurgence in whitefish landings has been coupled with the decommissioning of the largest offshore structure yet to come to Lerwick and the completion of major £12 million dredging and reclamation work.
Concept drawings have also been drawn up to show how Lerwick can provide 20-metre deep berths for future craft being developed for decommissioning.
Other improvements due to take place include: ? Improvements to the ro/ro infrastructure to suit an anticipated newer generation of vessels coming to the port.
- A town centre deep water berth. A 10 metre deep berth, ideal for cruise ships, could be developed once the fishmarket is relocated.
- A redevelopment of the Arlanda/Gremista quay.
- Replacing the Kebister tug, which is now almost 20 years old.
Chief executive of Lerwick Port Authority, Sandra Laurenson, said future plans were hugely encouraging for the port.
“On the back of the successful dredging project we need to build some deep water quays, so we’re looking for the first stage of that to start hopefully in 2009, probably looking to invest something like £7 million in the immediate term.
“One of the quays we’re looking to build will be the site for a future fish market. It’s been hugely encouraging to see it, and it’s really thanks to the boats and the buyers here who have provided an excellent service, the prices have been really good and that has been reflected in the demand.”
She said she had been surprised by the recent successes in the whitefish sector, which has shown a dramatic recovery in recent years.
“That did catch us unawares that the landings have been sustained throughout the year at a very good level.”
The port is bracing itself for a slowdown in activity during 2009 following a drop in herring and blue whiting quotas.
No significant decommissioning work is expected then either, but the harbour is preparing itself for a steady turn around later on.
Larger fishing boats will be given more space to work when the Holmsgarth north jetty is given an extension.
LPA’s chairman Brian Anderson said it was becoming increasingly important the work was carried out.
He said fluctuations in the market place meant the authority had to be pro-active and committed to ensuring the harbour’s future.
“The authority’s recent performance, along with the activities of the many port users, means that we are strongly positioned to move forward.
“A lot of the ships that are using it, from fishing boats through to service boats are all drawing deeper water, so it’s very necessary to do it.
“Through efficient operations, infrastructure development, investment and marketing, and working closely with third parties, we will continue to lay the groundwork for the challenges ahead.”
He said the scale of the capital programme meant it would take several years to achieve, but the authority has set about getting a budget organised for borrowing to fund the projects.