Lerwick is set for a bumper cruise ship season and on course to achieve a number of special milestones this summer.
The port will welcome its 1,000th cruise ship, as well as the first grossing more than 100,000 tonnes. Passenger numbers are expected to reach record levels, with around 26,000 arriving.
In what will be another busy year for the harbour, it is also looking forward to 2010, with 13 bookings already for large vessels, including a number of maiden visits.
Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “This promises to be another great cruise season for Lerwick and Shetland, with the port’s modern facilities and services and the islands’ many attractions – and famous warm welcome – encouraging first-time callers and larger ships, as well as repeat visits.”
A total of 45 cruise ships, adding up to over a million gross tonnes and including 11 maiden calls, are scheduled to visit Lerwick in a season extending from mid-May to late-September, with the 1,000th ship in July.
The 273-metre 102,587grt Costa Magica will set a new size record for the port in July when she pays the first of two visits.
The Crown Princess, at 113,651grt and 289 metres, will then rewrite Lerwick’s record books in September when she arrives on a transatlantic repositioning cruise.
For islands with strong connections with Norway, the cruise season will bring another highlight. The Fram will stay overnight, with her Norwegian crew celebrating part of their national day in Lerwick on 17th May.
The port authority is participating on the Cruise Europe stand at the 2009 Seatrade Cruise Shipping Exhibition and Conference, in Miami, from 16th to 19th March.
Meanwhile, annual figures released yesterday show that Lerwick Harbour handled a further increase in cargo last year, along with more vessels and higher landings of whitefish and seafood.
Ms Laurenson said there was another strong performance by port users across a range of activities, with specific factors again having an influence on different sectors.
“While the current economic climate and lower oil price are a concern, there are positive signs in the fishing industry and cruise market, for example, and, combined with our ongoing plans for port development, we look forward to another busy year.”
Lerwick cargo was up 7.6 per cent on 2007 at 945,216 tonnes, including a rise of almost 30 per cent in oil-related shipments to 154,657 tonnes.
The number of vessels rose by 9.4 per cent to 5,550, with the fishing industry generating the biggest increase – up 11.4 per cent to 2,300, followed by oil-related vessels, up 11 per cent at 619.
The tonnage of vessels operating in the offshore industry was down four per cent, however, compared to 2007 when a large drilling rig and more diving support vessels used the port.
The total tonnage of all vessels last year was 9.5 million gross tonnes, down 9.2 per cent, mainly due to the fact the Smyril ferry Norröna stopped calling in 2007. Pilotage movements and the tonnage of vessels piloted also decreased.
While total fish landings held steady at 113,358 tonnes, the value was up 14.2 per cent at £63.4 million. White fish, at 10,057 tonnes valued at £16 million, increased 16 per cent on volume and 24 per cent on value, for an average price up 6.7 per cent to £1,597 per tonne.
Pelagic fish landings remained static, with the value up 13 per cent, while deliveries to a fish meal and oil plant were down slightly. Shellfish landings were up 50 per cent.
The ending of the Norröna service and weather disruption to cruise ship visits saw a 3.6 per cent reduction to 130,715 in passenger traffic, the mainstay of which is NorthLink’s scheduled ferry services to the Scottish mainland and Orkney on which numbers remained near the 2007 level.