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A busy and successful year for Stornoway Port Authority showed a strong underlying financial performance despite challenging economic conditions.
The Authority’s 2017 annual report highlights improvement in many aspects of the business as it plans a series of ambitious developments in line with its 20-year Master Plan.
The report, to be discussed at the Port Authority’s annual public meeting tonight in Stornoway (Wednesday, 23 May), shows total vessel movements grew by nine per cent on 2016 to 908, with the number of ferry passengers up by five per cent (to 276,088) and cars by eight per cent (to 92,999).
The number of visiting yachts also showed a rise of eight per cent to 404 and turnover of £3.4 million was 3.4 per cent higher than 2016.
In contrast, the report reveals that 45 cruise ships visited Stornoway during 2017 (a decrease from 64 the previous year), with cruise passenger numbers down significantly on what was an exceptional year in 2016.
Current facilities at Stornoway are hampering cruise trade as vessels over 156 metres in length cannot berth alongside the harbour and passengers have to be transferred ashore by tender.
It has underlined the need for a key part of the Master Plan – a proposed deep water port – which will allow berthing of vessels up to 350 metres long.
A deep water port is crucial to accelerate growth in the burgeoning cruise business, as it could mean Stornoway attracting an additional 35-40 vessels a year and a significant number of business opportunities being created throughout Lewis and beyond.
The Master Plan also aims to provide improved berthing and servicing for oil and renewables projects and a new linkspan/freight ferry berth, as well as a multifunctional development at Goat Island/Newton Basin and leisure and amenity facilities around Cromwell Street Quay.
To pave the way for the deep water port, site investigations costing £400,000 began in November and this, along with other exceptional items, including repair and maintenance contracts worth £250,000, affected the Port Authority’s profits during 2017 despite turnover increasing.
Alex Macleod, Stornoway Port Authority’s Chief Executive, said: “Last year was a strong and steady period for the Port Authority. The economic climate was difficult but we increased turnover and most aspects of the business showed improvements on the previous year.
“The other results, such as the reduction in cruise passengers, only emphasises that it is correct to develop our facilities in line with the Master Plan, which will create significant economic opportunities for Stornoway and the whole of Lewis and Harris.
“I want to thank our key partners, customers, staff, harbour users and other stakeholders for their support during 2017. This support will become even more important as we develop these ambitious but crucial major developments in the coming years.”
The full annual report can be read here