Black gold, the oil industry arrived in Shetland in the first of the 1970s, changing forever the way of life in our islands. Sullom Voe in the north of Shetland provided deep water berthing for huge oil tankers which carried away a considerable amount of oil which added to the nation’s wealth. Most of the materials required for the constructing the oil terminal had to pass through the port of Lerwick. Fairly recently an oil refinery was built at the Sullom Voe site. Not only did huge amounts of materials come through our port but also thousands of workers arrived in Shetland to erect the plant. This put a strain on the islands hotels and guest houses and lead to liners and floating accommodation barges being brought in.
Shetland is surrounded by oil rigs and a lot of them are serviced through the port. Stand by vessels, which remain in the vicinity of the rigs in all types of weather, are also frequent visitors.
With the recent downturn in the oil, the older, less productive oil rigs are being decommissioned and Lerwick Port Authority has provided facilities to carry out the work.
With all the sea going traffic it is very necessary to have all the emergency services such as the lifeboat and search and rescue helicopter Oscar Charlie. The Shetland coastguard station based in Lerwick and overlooks the harbour, is responsible for a huge area of the sea and land. They monitor all oceans going traffic including the oil rigs in the vicinity and are the focal point for all types of maritime incidents including calling out the lifeboat & cliff rescue.
Occasional visitors to the port are the fishery protection vessels: they are responsible for policing the U.K. waters and ensuring fishing quotas are adhered to. Another is that of Greenpeace International who have been sailing the world’s oceans protecting our planet and fighting for environmental justice. One of their vessels MV Whales Forever is seen in my images calling along Lerwick Harbour for repairs before setting off on another mission in the North Sea.
Being the maritime cross roads of the North Sea it is not unusual for passing ships to call along the harbour whether it is for emergency ship repairs or for a courtesy call. In Lerwick harbour’s past the port was used by Navy ships especially in the war years, and in the Cold war era when we would see all sorts of naval vessels including submarines.