A decline in offshore activity around Shetland sent oil-related cargo handling plummeting by 24 per cent in Lerwick in the first quarter of this year.
Figures released by Lerwick Port Authority show an overall decline in cargoes of 15.7 per cent to 200,960 tonnes over the period. The downturn had been forecast by the authority as a result of the economic recession.
In last week’s Budget, chancellor Alistair Darling announced new incentives to try to encourage firms to extract oil and gas from marginal fields in the North Sea, which it is hoped will bring more offshore activity.
However the habour news was not all bleak. Passenger traffic increased by 6.6 per cent and a busy cruise ship season is about to get underway, with 49 vessels scheduled to bring 26,000 passengers over the next five months.
LPA chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “We forecast in 2008 that, due to specific circumstances in particular sectors and the general economic climate, there would be slower growth in traffic this year, and the statistics are in line with our projections. However, backed by our investment and development programme, our outlook for the longer term remains positive.”
The number of vessel arrivals was down 4.6 per cent across various areas of activity at 1,293, compared with the same period in 2008, with the overall tonnage down 9.9 per cent at 1.9 million gross tonnes, due mainly to the NorthLink ferries being away for dry-docking this year.
With more large diving support and construction vessels using the deep-water port, the tonnage of oil-related shipping rose 10 per cent to 360,643 gross tonnes. However, the reduction in offshore industry activity led to the large fall in cargo handling.
Fish landings totalled 27,836 tonnes, valued at £27.5 million, down 50 per cent on volume, with a 0.6per cent increase in value. The volume reflects a drop in blue whiting landed for fishmeal. With reduced quota available, a larger proportion of this fishery is landed for human consumption.
White fish at 3,196 tonnes was valued at £4.7 million, up 1.5 per cent on volume and up 1 per cent on value. The price per tonne showed a small decrease of 0.46 per cent to average £1,494 per tonne.
In the pelagic sector, winter mackerel landings were down in volume and up in value, while there were no industrial fish landings at Heogan, Bressay, during the period.