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15 December 2023

Orkney Future Ports Builds Momentum as We Set Sail into 2024

We may be the smallest local authority in Scotland, but for us, size is no obstacle to our big ambitions. Paul Olvhoj, our Business Development Manager, reflects on what has been another successful year for Orkney Harbours as we set our sights on 2024.

In all my years working for ports and harbours, I can say with absolute certainty that there never has been a more exciting time for the maritime industry than right now. The driver for this change? Offshore wind. 

Over the last few years, Orkney Harbours has been exploring the potential of this movement. In 2023, we unveiled Orkney Future Ports (OFP), one of the UK’s most significant marine energy infrastructure programmes ever undertaken. Positioned to make the islands a key player in the energy transition, OFP aims to support the offshore wind industry in both the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Our aim is to use the projects included in OFP to drive growth, improve infrastructure, and create jobs and at the forefront of this is Scapa Deep Water Quay, a project deemed nationally significant by the Scottish Government. Harnessing the unique resources of Scapa Flow with a brand-new facility, this site will position Orkney as a hub for the assembly, integration and wet storage of substructures and turbines. The project is currently in the planning process, and we are working hard to develop a funding stack for our council members to decide on the next steps. However, strong government support is now crucial to de-risk the project, and we're already engaging with potential constructors to ensure market readiness.

Another major part of the plan is the expansion of Hatston Pier to create Orkney Logistics Base. Initially designed for cruise ships, Hatston will undergo an extension, creating a new laydown area. The project, also in planning, aims to provide berthing for industries ranging from offshore wind and oil and gas to freight and aquaculture.

However, it’s not just our renewable credentials that are hitting the headlines. Our record-breaking cruise season, featuring 205 vessels and over 200,000 passengers, injected £15 to £20 million into the local economy. Cruise is a vital aspect of our work at Orkney Harbours, and we're committed to ensuring we sustainably manage this sector in collaboration with stakeholders and local communities.

It would be remiss to ignore the ongoing dialogue around visitor and cruise levies, and we would prefer a more inclusive response. While cruise companies and ports work on sustainability plans to reduce emissions, it's crucial to consider the entire tourism sector. Only 50% of our visitors arrive on cruise vessels, necessitating a collaborative dialogue to find solutions that benefit each location and Scotland as a whole.

With 2024 just around the corner, we aim to build on our progress and provide optimal solutions for Orkney, Scotland, and the UK. The challenge lies in maintaining the momentum generated in 2023 and steering towards another successful year for Orkney.