Record million tonnes piloted as harbour enjoys bumper June

Lerwick Harbour enjoyed a bumper month in June with high numbers of visitors and a record one million tonnes worth of vessels being piloted.

Increased tonnage was thanks to cruise ships and oil industry support vessels, with numbers of fishing-related craft and yachts also up.

Harbourmaster Calum Grains was delighted that a million tonnes of shipping had been piloted safely during the course of last month. He said: “It’s the first time for a long time if ever [this has happened]. It’s fantastic for the port to be able to pilot that tonnage of vessels in one month, I hope we’re able to do it again.”

Any vessel can request a pilot, but it is compulsory for vessels over a certain tonnage to have a pilot into and out of the harbour approaches.

Meanwhile, over a longer timeframe, activity at Lerwick Harbour ended the first half of the year on a positive note with more yachts, more fishing vessels and a greater tonnage of cruise ships visiting than in the same period last year.

Cargo traffic showed signs of recovering and oil-related shipping last month had the biggest increase since December 2008.

Despite a general decrease in oil-related activity during January-June, especially in supply boat visits, down from 111 last year to 55, this year, both figures for the first six months of the year, overall traffic was up on the same period in 2009.

Figures for the January-June period showed a total of 2,765 arrivals, a rise of 0.8 per cent, with a tonnage increase of 7.3 per cent at 4.3 million gross tonnes.

There was a 14 per cent increase in pilotage movements to 486, with the gross tonnage of vessels piloted rising 60 per cent to 2,826,588 gross tonnes, mainly due to larger vessels using the port.

Activity levels earlier in the year meant that cargo for the six months showed a 1.9 per cent decrease, at 379,170 tonnes.

There was a 19 per cent increase in passengers to 66,546, with ferry passengers on the scheduled services to the Scottish mainland and Orkney up by 8 per cent to 56,723 and the cruise season, which started in May and continued to build through June, bringing 9,823 passengers so far, a rise of 164 per cent.

Deputy chief executive of Lerwick Port Authority Victor Sandison said: “The grounds for cautious optimism seen in the first quarter strengthened by mid-year, with further signs of a gradual recovery in activity. Cruise ships are expected to deliver a record season and there were indications of an upturn in key sectors such as cargo and oil-related traffic.

“Fish landings, however, continue to decrease, with problems being encountered due to the limited number of days at sea available to the white fish fleet. The increased average price for white fish is not able to counteract the drop in volume.”

Fish landings totalled 32,508 tonnes, valued at £26.2 million, down 13 per cent on volume and 21 per cent on value.

The 5,028 tonnes of white fish landed were valued at £8 million, a drop of 13 per cent on volume and 9 per cent on value. The price per tonne increased 5 per cent to average £1,592 per tonne. In the pelagic sector, winter mackerel landings were down in volume and value, with remaining tonnage to be taken in the autumn fishery. There were landings of blue whiting to Shetland Catch for human consumption and a limited quantity landed at Heogan, Bressay, for fishmeal during the first quarter of the year.


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