Activity at Lerwick Harbour was down on the preceeding two years in accordance with port authority forecasts.
2015 was a “difficult market” following two exceptionally busy periods in 2013 and 2014 owing to the oil business contraction that is also expected to hit traffic again this year. However cruise traffic is expected to recover to “record levels”.
The downturn comes at a time when the port authority is in the midst of a general upgrade of harbor facilities including extended quaysides and additional deep water berthing.
Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “The severe contraction in offshore industry operations is continuing and will impact again on the overall performance in 2016. However, we will be protected to some extent by the range of users and activity at the port, a positive factor going forward.
“Cruise traffic will recover to record levels, with 70 vessels booked and 50,000-plus passengers expected. Completion of the Holmsgarth North jetty in the autumn will encourage fishing industry activity and is another step towards building a new white fish market. Completion of the Dales Voe South quay extension in summer will provide additional deep-water facilities for future offshore industry subsea project support and decommissioning.”
The 4,970 vessel arrivals in 2015 were down two per cent compared to 2014, including a 20 per cent fall in oil-related shipping, which was the main reason behind the reduction. Tonnage of all vessels, at 11.5 million gross tonnes, was down 5.8 per cent, due mainly to fewer cruise vessels. Cargo handled totalled 1,082,068 tonnes, a drop of 9 per cent, including 7.6 per cent less shipments for the offshore sector.
A 1.4 per cent increase to 137,529 in the number of ferry passengers on the Aberdeen and Kirkwall roll-on/roll-off routes was offset by a 30 per cent fall to 30,430 in passengers arriving by cruise ships, for an overall total of 167,959, a decrease of 6 per cent.
Fish landings added up to 64,000 tonnes, valued at £46.6 million – down 8.6 per cent on volume and 24 per cent on value. White fish, at 9,800 tonnes, was valued at £15.5 million, with volume unchanged and down 2 per cent on value, for an average price per tonne down 3 per cent at £1,585 per tonne.
The pelagic sector showed good increases in volume and value of summer herring, but a decrease in volume and value of mackerel, for which poor international markets dragged down the overall landings and values for the year. Mackerel markets are expected to stabilise at the same level in 2016.