The import and export of goods by sea remains a vital part of the regional economy of the north-east of Scotland and this has been demonstrated more than ever this year, with a positive rise in activity levels at the port. Next year is set for similar success, with the Board planning to invest in the region of £24million to ensure improvements at the harbour continue to meet the demands of new and existing customers. There are already some exciting plans in store for 2012, including continued work at Torry Quays with the start of Phase 2 of the development. Once complete, this will provide additional deepwater berthing and improved dockside facilities.
Significant levels of investment this year have paid off, with overall vessel tonnage in 2011 already exceeding the record level of 24.2 million gross tonnes recorded in 2010. This growth in activity is expected to continue into next year.
The changing requirements of port users, both locally and internationally, will also remain a key influence on the improvements and developments taking place at Aberdeen Harbour next year. Targeted development can present increased opportunities and, recognising this, the process of evolution has seen the Board invest more than £200 million into the port’s facilities in recent decades. Oil and gas exploration, both in the UKCS and further afield is likely to continue apace with developments in the Barents Sea and Faroe Islands expected to facilitate continued growth in both vessel numbers and tonnage across 2012. We will continue to cater for the larger vessels that coincide with this activity through ongoing investment and development, which has this year seen the deepening and strengthening of berths at Commercial Quay East amongst other projects. West Africa will remain an important region for us, primarily as a result of energy sector activity, while timber and scrap cargoes are expected to remain strong. Sustaining and growing these traffic flows is a vital consideration. We are constantly taking account of the changing needs of customers, and will continue to adapt to the challenges of future business streams, providing a world-class service.
Of course the instability being experienced by the worldwide economy means that it is difficult to predict exactly what the market will look like next year, but as a key regional resource Aberdeen Harbour has a responsibility to ensure it is in the best possible position to meet these challenges.
During 2011 the port welcomed a variety of new business, from the circular freight cargo service operating from Murmansk, North Russia to Velsen, Holland, to more unusual cargo, including wind turbines bound for Hill of Towie and thousands of tonnes of seed potatoes from Irish Potato Marketing (IPM), stored at Clipper Quay before their onward shipment to Egypt. We will continue to ensure that we can provide the infrastructure that will accommodate the needs of existing customers while also seeking new opportunities. In August, we handled further shipments of wind turbines, a demonstration of our capability to meet the demands of the onshore and offshore renewables sector. There is a clear realisation however that skills and aspiration are not the only elements required to succeed in this sector. Facilities and space are just as important and we will continue to invest in these across coming months and years, underpinning our commitment to this emerging industry.
Enhancements this year have seen Aberdeen Harbour further strengthen its position by providing a range of facilities that will increase the usability and aid the long-term potential of the port. This pro-active approach sets a high standard, and we look forward to continuing to meet the demands and requirements of both present and future port users in the coming year.