Investment and Development Key to the Future of Orkney Harbours

Orkney’s harbours are unique throughout the UK in that they are owned by Orkney Islands Council with the exception of St Margaret’s Hope. A Draft Orkney Harbours Plan has been produced to map out the way forward for this vital part of the islands economy.

Click on this link to find the downloadable  documents . Developing Orkney’s Harbours

Orkney Harbours are self funded. They receive no money from either the council or the Scottish Government.

Brian Archibald Orkney Harbours


Brian Archibald,Harbour Master and Head of Marine Services, Engineering and Transportation, presented the draft master plan at a series of events on Wednesday 12th of June to members of the public. He said that not only were the harbours not a drain on council resources they have been a contributor to  OIC reserves for over 40 years.

This is Phase 1 of the project to develop and invest in Orkney’s Harbours. Phase 1 is:

  • Kirkwall Pier
  • Hatston Pier
  • Scapa Pier
  • Scapa Deep Water Quay
  • Stromness
  • Lyness

Phase 2 will be the North and South Isles. The reasoning being that (a) The Harbours in Phase 1 are the profitable ones and fund the isles harbours and (b) A decision has not yet been made on the Inter Isles Ferries – this needs to be known before considering harbour development.

Brian Archibald explained that Orkney Harbours has to ‘operate in a commercial market’ and that their competitors are well ahead of Orkney in plans to develop their harbours. He said that Orkney Harbours must ‘invest in what will be successful’.

Phase 1 involves the income generating ports where the intention is to carry on with success as this will be the financial bedrock for Phase 2.

Brian Archibald is ‘expecting the draft to be the basis of what goes forward’ due to the rigorous consultation and engagement process to get to this stage. Although there is room for small changes to be made still.

Kirkwall Pier

Kirkwall Pier plan

The marina is almost at capacity and the new ferries will be larger. The plan is to extend with an extra arm to the north into deeper water. This will also help with the growth in the smaller cruise ship market which would be able to use that area.

Hatston Pier

Hatston Plan

Originally built for the renewables sector now Hatston Pier also caters for the cruise ship industry. The plan will be to make it bigger – almost doubling the length –   but not for larger cruise ships. The intention is to attract West of Shetland activity  – that’s oil and gas.  Hatston will be even longer and will have a second access to separate out the industrial activity from the ferry/cruise ship sector.

One possibility is to also have a boat lift facility here as there is a big shortage of that in the North of Scotland.

Scapa Pier

Scapa Pier plan

This is actually Orkney’s busiest harbour but has had the least done to it . It is the only access into Orkney for liquid hydrocarbons. The plan is to extend the pier with a ‘dog leg’. The investment in this pier may not draw in more business but it will make it more sustainable. Currently it is Orkney’s most profitable pier.

Scapa Deep Water Quay

Scapa Deep water plan

This is the only part of the draft master plan that the Scottish Government have an official  interest in because this area is a strategic asset. It is the biggest of the projects in Phase 1 and would be unique offering a deep water port for Offshore support.

The draft plan has it situated 2 to 3 miles South from Scapa Pier – before Holm and round about Deepdale. The advantages of this development would be that no dredging would be required and the deep water is not far from the shore.  It would be intended to support Offshore activity including wind farms and renewables. There is currently nothing of that nature in the north of Scotland.

Scapa Deep Water Quay would be facilitating the oil and gas industry which may be a dilemma for OIC having only recently declared a climate emergency. Orkney Harbours, however, see this as a transitional service to the Oil and Gas Sector which Orkney would continue to benefit from.


Stromness harbour plan

Constrained in space there would not be much development at this stage in Stromness. The failure to get expected funding from the Rural Transport Infrastructure Fund which would have extended the marina has limited the plan. There are possibilities for a pontoon and a closer look at the entirety of the quayside. Greater use also needs to be made of Coplands.


Lyness Harbour plan

Lyness has enormous potential but is greatly underused. Over the years there have been a number of false starts with interested parties in Lyness. It is limited by pollution due to its use in two world wars and Orkney Harbours are in dialogue with the MOD over solutions to this.

Environmental Issues

Any development has an environmental cost and benefit. A strategic environmental assessment has been made but there are many unanswered questions.

Assessment of the likely significant environmental effects of the above selected proposals concluded that there is the potential for negative effects on air, biodiversity, flora and fauna, climatic factors, cultural heritage, landscape, material assets, population and human health, soils and water from implementation of the Orkney Harbours Masterplan.  Strategic Environment Assessment

This ambitious project to invest in and develop Orkney’s harbours will also have to tie in with a number of other planning strategies for example, the council’s local development plan on land use and the future of Orkney’s inter island ferries. The environmental factors will also be considerable not just the construction of the facilities but the continuing reliance of Orkney to be funded by supporting the Oil and Gas Sector.

Draft Master Plan 2

Orkney Harbours are keen to receive responses to their consultation.  You can find more information here. Draft Orkney Harbours Masterplan

Draft Master Plan 1

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

Leave a Reply