Shetland feels impact of 'severe' problem at port as Covid-19 and oil price deal double blow

(C) John Coutts

Coronavirus and the oil price slump have caused a "severe downturn" in activity at Shetland's main harbour which is being felt throughout the islands' economy, the chief executive of Lerwick Port Authority (LPA) said yesterday. Calum Grains added that, although the organisation is trying to alleviate the impact on the local supply chain, the scope it has to do that is limited. Mr Grains' comments came as LPA released activity statistics for the first quarter of 2020 showing that a positive start to the year had been overtaken by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The figures showed that in the three months to the end of March, vessel arrivals at the port fell by 3%, compared to the same period last year, to 1,015. There were fewer fish farming vessels and pilotage movements, while the number of oil-related arrivals also decreased. The total tonnage of visiting ships was down by 0.4% year-on-year at 1.95 million gross tonnes.

Among oil-related traffic, there was a 15.3% drop to 277,617 gross tonnes. There was a 10.5% rise in cargo tonnage for the oil and gas industry to 11,022 tonnes, due partly to delivery of anchoring equipment for storage prior to its installation offshore. But overall cargo handling at the port was down 4.6% from last year at 165,060 tonnes, with less carried on NorthLink's Lerwick-Aberdeen ferry routes and a drop in outbound freight for the energy industry.

Despite the arrival in February and March of two cruise ships, with 1,499 passengers, total footfall at Lerwick fell 13.7% to 18,220. Ferry passenger numbers were down 17.4% at 16,721. Reduced demand from overseas and UK caterers led to a 21.5% fall in the number of boxes of white-fish landed, to 48,462.

Mr Grains said: "The double blow has hit all sectors, with the ongoing impact being felt throughout Shetland, reflecting the harbour's role in the islands' economy. The statistics demonstrate the harsh facts and seriousness of the situation, not just for the port, but also the local supply chain. "We are seeking to alleviate the effects wherever possible and to look to the future, but there is limited scope meantime among so many unknowns.

"When the time is right, the safe lifting of restrictions would allow completion of our new white-fish market, sustaining and developing the fishing industry.

"New operating protocols will undoubtedly be required by the hard-hit cruise industry before resuming sailings."

Shetland feels impact of 'severe' problem at port as Covid-19 and oil price deal double blow

Help support quality local journalism ... become a digital subscriber to The Press and Journal

For as little as ?5.99 a month you can access all of our content, including Premium articles.


You may also like...