Atlantic developments shield Lerwick Harbour from oil price drop

by Tom Morton -

Lerwick Harbour will be shielded from falling oil prices by continuing subsea hydrocarbon developments in the Atlantic, according to the port's chief executive. And Lerwick's importance as a gateway for Shetland’s communities and industries is underlined by an increase in passenger traffic, cargo handled and fish landed in 2014.

"Continuing project support, especially for subsea development in the Atlantic, will help shield the port from the drop in the oil price, with the sector a significant area of our activity for the foreseeable future,” said Sandra Laurenson."

Passengers were up 11.8% to 179,352, with numbers on the roll-on/roll-off nightly ferries between the port and Kirkwall and Aberdeen increased by 2% to 135,629 compared with the previous year, despite the two vessels being off-route in sequence for a total five weeks for biennial servicing. A recovery in cruise traffic saw passengers up by 64% to 43,723.

The tonnage of all cargo shipments across the deep-water harbour’s near-4,000 metres of quays increased 2% to 1,192,286 tonnes.

Fish landings totalled 69,973 tonnes, valued at £61.2 million – up 4.7% on volume and down 2.4% on value. The 9,700 tonnes of white fish were valued at £15.8 million, down 12% on volume and 7% on value, with the average price up 5% to £1,637 per tonne. In the pelagic sector, the volume and value of summer herring decreased, and an increase in mackerel was offset by a drop in prices in the autumn.

Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Sandra Laurenson, said: “Overall levels were as predicted and the year ended on forecast, underpinning our financial performance and confidence in the continuing development of the port.

“There are a number of positives going forward. For example, the 52 cruise ships booked this year are ahead of 2013 which was a record year for passengers. Increases in some key fishing quotas should mean higher landings. Continuing project support, especially for subsea development in the Atlantic, will help shield the port from the drop in the oil price, with the sector a significant area of our activity for the foreseeable future.”

There were 5,078 vessel arrivals in 2014, down 6% – due mainly to fewer fishing boats, following a busy year in 2013 – with the overall tonnage down 7% to 12.2 million gross tonnes compared to 2013 when shipments of rock to cover an offshore pipeline boosted figures.

A record tonnage of vessels was handled by the Authority’s pilots – 10.5 million gross tonnes, up 3.8%, reflecting the larger vessels using the port, although the number of piloted movements were down 5.6% at 1,418.