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Proposed New Cruise Ship Booking Policy Recommended

Members of Orkney Islands Council’s Harbour Authority Subcommittee have recommended (22nd August 2023) a booking policy for cruise liners in an attempt to address the challenges of over tourism hitting the islands.

a cruise liner and in the distance a wind turbine
Image credit: Bell

A copy of the proposed policy can be downloaded here:

The closure of roads in Kirkwall has affected some businesses and has limited access to services and shops by people with mobility issues.

Other roads outside of Kirkwall have also been impacted with crunch spots along the Brodgar Road, which is single track, and the mass use of cruise liner cycle tours causing major delays to traffic.

OIC considers the cruise ship industry now a vital part of the economy of Orkney.

The number of cruise calls per year since 2017, and the busiest passenger days (numbers do not include crew) in each season have been as follows:

Port revenues from cruise ships have increased from £1,924,260 in 2017 to £2,280,539 in 2019 to £2,947,007 in 2022 with a further increase for 2023 due to the increase in charges and number of calls.

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 tourism 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.”

The Booking Policy has vessels categorised by their passenger capacity from a Category 5 vessel (over 5000 passengers) to a Category 1 (under 500 passengers), with the intention being that the maximum total for Hatston Pier and Kirkwall Bay Anchorage should not exceed a category sum of 5.

The Booking Policy is one part of other matters being considered relating to Cruise Liners and Orkney’s Tourism Industry which is about more than just that industry.

Due to how far in advance cruise liners book visits, the Booking Policy won’t really have any impact until 2026. The Policy has also not undergone an Islands Community Impact:

Councillors at the Harbour Authority Sub-committee recommended that the Cruise Booking and Confirmation Policy be approved for use by the Harbour Authority as the guiding policy for handling the bookings for cruise vessels wishing to call in Orkney. This requires to be ratified by Full Council.

The Booking Policy would limit the size of vessels in port by restrictions at the relevant berths, however, OIC, as the Harbour Authority, has a open port duty which means it must be open to all persons for the shipping and unshipping of goods, and the embarking and landing of passengers.

It should also be noted that Orkney will be hosting the Islands Games in 2025.

large cruise liner in Kirkwall Bay with a flock of birds rising up in the field in the foreground
Image credit Kenny Armet

Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. There is no doubt that a lot of businesses in Orkney benefit from the cruise ships. I have a shop myself on Victoria Street. Although I do make some sales to the passengers, I’m not sure it would be more than those of the locals who no longer come into town when there is a large cruise ship in.
    It completely changes the feel of Kirkwall on these days. And I think it loses some of its character.
    It definately has to be managed better so certain areas are not swamped.

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