A 34 per cent increase in calls, an 85 per cent increase in estimated passengers and an 83 per cent increase in overall tonnage is the news for 2018 in Lerwick.
That’s not bad, and it will continue to go up in 2019, with a 20 per cent increase expected in passenger arrivals.
Among the notable calls for 2018 was the MSC Meraviglia, which was scheduled to dock on July 31, breaking all previous records and becoming the largest ship to berth in Lerwick, according to Victor Sandison, the senior commercial executive at Lerwick Harbour.
“At 60 degrees north, Lerwick Harbour is Britain’s ‘top’ port, strategically located at the crossroads of the North Sea and Northeast Atlantic, providing a uniquely blended visitor experience of Scottish hospitality and Nordic culture,” said Sandison.
The port has three dedicated cruise berths and can take ships alongside up to 232 meters. In addition, large ships can anchor in sheltered anchorages with a short tender ride to the town centre.
“Lerwick Port Authority has future plans to deepen the approach channel and the berth at Mair’s Pier to provide alongside-berthing for a number of larger vessels which currently need to anchor and transfer passengers by tender,” Sandison noted. “Going forward, this will reduce any possible weather disruption for these cruise calls. A timeline for this work will be decided once financing is available.”
With traffic moving up, challenges include making sure there are “sufficient” resources available to offer a high-quality passenger experience shoreside.
Tour providers are adding new experiences to their programs, among which is a “Sound of Shetland” excursion treating visitors to a showcase of Shetland’s fantastic musical heritage in Lerwick’s Mareel waterfront auditorium.
Lerwick Port Authority has also provided support for extra coaches to be brought into the islands for the cruise season to add additional capacity for shore excursions, Sandison said.