Lerwick harbour development a boost for Scotland's fishing fleet

A multi-million pound expansion of Lerwick Harbour was officially opened this week as part of a long-term strategy to attract investment to Shetland and consolidate its role as a hub for the fishing and energy industries.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott (left) officially names the new Mairs Pier in Lerwick this week with harbour authority chairman Brian Anderson and chief executive Sandra Laurenson. Picture: John Couts

Seafood - rather than oil - remains “the most important industry” in Shetland, a status reflected in the decision to redevelop its largest port to accomodate larger fishing vessels.

Mair’s Pier, a £16.5 million quay, was completed by Lerwick Port Authority in late 2016 to provide an 800-metre-plus, L-shaped jetty offering deeper berthing and more working area for the local fleet.

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Its outer arm creates a dock which will shelter a new white fish market on Mair’s Quay.

Lerwick Harbour has underwent its biggest expansion in 140 years

The harbour also boasts high-capacity shore power, allowing pelagic vessels to connect to the electricity supply while on lay-by at the Holmsgarth North quay.

Tavish Scott, MSP for Shetland, said the the archipelago was “geographically fortunate” as it had been able to tap in to North Sea oil boom of the 1970s but also sustain its fishing industry at a time when it had declined elsewhere in the UK.

Mr Scott said: “Lerwick Port Authority has, through the decades, invested in Shetland’s future. New quays, facilities and deeper, sheltered water reflect the needs of larger vessels, the ever-changing oil and gas industry and the importance of seafood to Shetland and the wider Scottish and UK economy.

“Mair’s Pier is testament to the Lerwick Port Authority board and the team who make the Authority the successful, growing business it is. It is a strategic investment in Lerwick, and so much more.

Lerwick Harbour has underwent its biggest expansion in 140 years

The authority recognises the maritime world never stands still and ports must adapt and invest in their facilities to compete.

“Shetland is geographically fortunate - in the right place at the right time when North Sea oil was discovered and the industry is being served by the new pier.

Today, fishing is the islands’ most important industry. A new fish market providing state-of-the art facilities will complement the new pier. Cruise liners discharging thousands of people to visit what the Islands have to offer now have additional berthing.

“Mair’s Pier is the latest major investment by a highly professional and go-ahead port. It will not be the last, and that approach to Shetland’s future is why Lerwick will remain a top UK port.” Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson said Mair’ Pier would help sustain and grow activity.

She added: It is also very much a value-added asset as a catalyst for considerable further development, including a new fish market and fishing industry hub.”

The project involved land reclamation, construction of an 804-metre deep-water L-shaped quay, and demolition of a smaller jetty and included creating a working area over 1.5 hectares for the fishing fleet and oil vessels.

The value of Scotland’s fishing industry reached a record high in May ahead of the Brexit 
negotiations which will determine its future. Fish landings in 2016 increased in value by 29 per cent to £563 million, according to official statistics which were published yesterday.

The quantity of fish landed by Scottish registered vessels in 2016 was 453,300 tonnes with a value of £563 million – an increase of three per cent and 29 per cent respectively since 2015.

The number of active Scottish registered fishing vessels in 2016 was 2,038, an increase of one per cent from 2015. The number of fishermen employed on Scottish fishing vessels was 4,823, consistent with 2015.