The charges for vessels using the port of Sullom Voe will increase by five per cent this year, it was agreed at a special meeting of the SIC harbour board on Wednesday.
Harbourmaster Roger Moore said he felt that the increase would be acceptable to port users. Sullom Voe was already one of the most expensive ports in Europe, he said, due to its infrastructure and its safey and environmental protection measures, and tried to be competitive.
The meeting heard that the council’s harbour account should aim for a level of profitability of £4 million a year, a budget set by the council in 2009, but it was generally accepted this could not be achieved with an increase of only five per cent at Sullom Voe.
Independent member Jim Tait said five per cent was “slightly too low” and suggested seven per cent. “If we don’t keep going ahead we will get more pressure in years to come,” Mr Tait said, calling the figure a “sensible compromise”.
However, Jim Henry said Sullom Voe was already expensive, and fellow councillors Addie Doull and Robert Henderson warned the increase could be killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
Mr Henderson said: “We shouldn’t shoot ourselves in the foot and encourage trade to go elsewhere.” Members eventually voted for the five per cent increase.
Board chairman Alastair Cooper said there is a lot of trade to be won from the west of Shetland if “the price is right”.
At present the harbour account, which goes into the reserve fund, is estimated to show a profit of £1.9 million for 2011-12. If savings in the “ports for the future” programme can be achieved, plus a one-off amount for the sale of a tug, the amount could be increased.
Savings are also expected to be made through ports and harbours staff reductions in 2012-13.