Orkney, the cruise ship capital of Britain, is set to ride on the wave of a record -breaking season – worth up to £15million to the local economy.
But there are warnings of the environmental impact to the islands’ infrastructure – with thousands of day visitors, swamping sensitive and small sites like the Italian Chapel, St Magnus Cathedral, Maeshowe, The Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae.
A total of 234 ships are booked to berth in the county over the course of the year, according to Orkney Harbour Authority.
“It’s difficult to quantify the exact value of cruise to Orkney but it is estimated as being between £12-15million annually with a significant number of people working directly and indirectly with cruise and tourism in the islands,” said Orkney Islands Council.
Covid bounce back
These projected figures signal a boost in the cruise industry for Orkney as it bounces back from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The number of calls to Stromness has also increased this year, with 23 bookings.
There will be 41 lines visiting Orkney meaning the county continues to be the number one transit-call location for cruise in the UK.
Paul Olvhoj, business development manager with Marine Services at the Orkney Harbour Authority, admits the success of attracting so many cruise ship tourists can be “divisive” and a challenge.
He said: “The popularity of Orkney as a destination means that organising the process of cruise line calls to our berths is complex and it is critical that the correct staffing and skills are employed to ensure the safe handling of liners with up to 4,000 passengers.
“Cruise can be a divisive and difficult subject but we work very hard with the cruise lines, their shore excursion partners and our tourism stakeholders to ensure that the cruise sector has a positive experience in Orkney and that Orkney enjoys the benefits – it is not an understatement to say that every port in the UK looks at Orkney as a beacon of success in cruise and wishes to reach our high standards.
“How we manage the environmental impact of liners calling at Orkney is a challenge not just for locations but the industry itself.”
He continued: “Although there is a trend towards cleaner fuels for vessels it is important that shore power from green energy sources is considered.
“Our commitment to deliver a first-class service to all our visitors and benefitting the Orkney economy, through continual improvement and dedication, is a challenge that we are confident we can rise to.”
The first call by a visiting liner is due on March 25, when the MS Ambience docks at Hatston.
The cruise season is set to span well into autumn, with an October 17 visit by Norwegian Star due to be the last call of the year scheduled.