Lerwick Harbour is on course for record cruise traffic next year, with advance bookings currently at the highest level yet and 87 ships scheduled to arrive between March and October.
The latest forecast was revealed during the final day of the 2017 season on Wednesday when the Norwegian Jade arrived for the fourth time this year. With 2,335 passengers on board she was en route from Southampton to Reykjavik in Iceland on an 11-day trans-Atlantic voyage to New York.
The Norwegian Jade was the 70th cruise ship to call at Lerwick since April, bringing passenger numbers to 50,768. The tonnage this year added up to 2,146,061 gross tonnes, just short of last year’s record.
A feature of the year has been poor weather or itinerary changes, causing cancellation of around 10 per cent of planned cruise calls.
These tended to be larger vessels, meaning passenger numbers were around 20 per cent down on early-season predictions.
Lerwick Port Authority is planning to deepen the approach channel and the berth at Mair’s Pier to provide alongside-berthing for a number of vessels which currently need to anchor and transfer passengers by tender.
This will reduce any weather disruption for the cruise calls. Work has started on the consent required to dredge and it is hoped the work can take place in 2018.
Port authority senior commercial executive Victor Sandison said: “It’s been another great season, with record passenger numbers and other records narrowly missed because of poor weather disrupting a few arrivals.
“The significantly higher bookings for 2018 hopefully have enough margin to allow a few weather-related cancellations or itinerary-changes and still achieve record traffic, with over 90,000 passengers expected.
“The inclusion of Lerwick in so many itineraries is another vote for Shetland’s modern facilities, warm welcome and many attractions.”
An estimated 3,863,922 gross tonnes of cruise ships are expected in 2018 including 11 maiden calls. Among them should be the record-breaking 316-metre-long, 167,600 gross tonne MSC Meraviglia, in July with 5,300 passengers and 2,000 crew.
Other highlights will include 14 planned calls by Viking Ocean Cruises’ vessels the Viking Sun, Viking Sea, Viking Sky and Viking Star throughout the season.
July and August are expected to be the busiest months with 27 and 22 calls respectively currently so far confirmed.