UK’s busiest port for day-trippers considers passenger levy plus cap on numbers

Orkney considers cruise passenger levy
By Linsey McNeill
22/08/2023
Home » UK’s busiest port for day-trippers considers passenger levy plus cap on numbers

Councillors in Orkney have recommended a new booking policy for cruise ships to make sure the Scottish island receives no more than 5,000 cruise passengers at a time.

They have also raised the possibility of a passenger level to fund additional services and infrastructure.

At a meeting of the council’s Harbour Authority sub-committee on Tuesday, councillors agreed a new cruise booking policy for Hatston Pier, Kirkwall Anchorage and the Kirkwall Piers as part of a wider Orkney tourism strategy.

More than 200 ships from 44 cruise lines will call at Orkney this year, bringing 200,000 passengers, making it the busiest UK port for day trippers.

While the cruise industry injects £12-£15m into the local economy every year, the number of passengers arriving en masse has put a strain on local services, according to some residents.

In a statement, the council said: “The aim is to make the booking, anchoring and the management of passenger traffic a smooth and efficient process for cruise liner crews and the staff at Orkney Harbours – and improved management of supporting local infrastructure such as roads and tourist sites.”

Ships will be categorised by passenger capacity, with those carrying 5000+ in Category 5 and those carrying fewer than 500 in Category 1.

The council said the intention is that the total for Hatston Pier and Kirkwall Bay Anchorage should not exceed a category sum of five.

Chair of the Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee Councillor David Dawson 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 cruise booking and confirmation policy must be ratified by the full council.

The sub-committee also recommended a report be submitted to the Development and Infrastructure Committee, covering the wider challenges in managing cruise ships and the possibility of a passenger levy to fund improvements in infrastructure and services.

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