The Orkney Islands, located off the North Coast of Scotland, is one of the latest area to address the number of cruise ship visits.
The local council is to introduce a new cruise booking and confirmation policy to bring a better transparent and defined process for the busiest shipping locations on the islands – Hatston Pier, Kirkwall Anchorage and Kirkwall Piers.
This move will form part of a wider Orkney tourism strategy.
It is estimated that the cruise sector brings in £12-15 mill to the local economy per year. In addition, a significant number of people work in the tourism sector, including cruising, either directly or indirectly.
This year, the islands will play host to more than 200 cruise ships from 44 cruise companies, which has made Orkney the number one transit call in the UK.
The Council said that the new booking policy will provide a more efficient allocation of berths, based on vessel pre-notification, arrival and administrative compliances.
Vessels will be categorised by their pax capacity, ranging from Category 5 (over 500 pax) to Category 1 (under 500 pax). The intention is that the maximum total for Hatston Pier and Kirkwall Bay Anchorage should not exceed a Category 5 total.
The aim is to make bookings, anchoring and pax traffic management a smooth and efficient process for cruise ship crews and the Orkney harbours’ staff, plus the improved local infrastructure, such as roads and tourist sites.
Councillor David Dawson, Chair of the Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee, said: “Orkney Harbours is the busiest port for transit passengers (day trips only) in the UK. Across the year, we welcome up to 200,000 passengers and they are a vital part of our vibrant tourist industry, which showcases Orkney and the beauty, history and significance of our islands.
“All cruise ships that currently call here in Orkney will continue to be able to do so. This policy has been developed by looking at models from other ports around the world, so we can ensure we operate the best possible booking procedures, which offer clear and transparent guidance to cruise operators and enhance the experience for passengers.
“This will allow the staff at our busiest locations to better manage the size and frequency of vessels anchoring here and also enable better management of supporting local infrastructure for our visitors and our resident communities,” he said.
The Harbour Authority Sub-committee councillors recommended that this policy be approved by the Harbour Authority for handling Orkney’s cruise bookings. It still requires the Full Council’s ratification.
Further recommendations were made, including that a report be submitted to the Development and Infrastructure Committee, covering the wider challenges in managing cruise ships’ provision of services and infrastructure to support the cruise industry and funding through a passenger levy.