Orkney Marinas 21st Year
Written by Leesa Thomson on
Review of 2022
2022 marked 21 years since Orkney Marinas Ltd was set up and it was a record breaker! Orkney’s three marinas welcomed 823 visiting boats, their crews making the journey to the Islands to experience quality sailing and warm Orcadian hospitality. The increase of 16% compared to 2019 was, in part, due to pent up demand following lock down restrictions but also reflects national and international trends showing increased boat ownership and leisure boating activity. Fears that European visitors would not return following Brexit have been unfounded with 11% of boats coming from Norway, 9% from France, 7% from the Netherlands and 4% each from Germany and Sweden. Visiting yacht crews fall in to the coveted ‘low volume, high value’ category of tourist, spending £120 per person per night according to Ekos’ Sailing Tourism in Scotland survey in 2016. Using this figure shows that the 1,989 crew visiting Orkney this season have contributed £829k to the local economy. The annual visitor feedback survey issued by Orkney Marinas Ltd found that this money is spread throughout the Islands, with 50% of crews visiting at least one of the outer Isles during their visit. Visitor moorings provided by OIC Marine Services are very popular and give additional options for exploring the Isles. Survey participants listed Orkney’s historic sites, the scenery and wildlife, and the friendliness of local folk as highlights of their stay here.
Small boat ownership has also increased locally with demand for space at the marinas at a record high. There are currently 138 permanent berth holders across the marinas in Kirkwall, Stromness and Westray and a further 32 on waiting lists for a berth. More boating activity is positive news as the benefits to health and wellbeing of being ‘on the water’ are now well known, however, the demand for space is also understandably frustrating for those waiting for a permanent berth. There is a movement towards much larger boats, both visitor and local, creating a need for bigger berths. OML is hopeful that a funding application to the Crown Estate Scotland’s Boat Based Tourism Fund, submitted by OIC, will be successful and allow a much needed expansion to Stromness Marina to go ahead, providing an additional 20 berths.
When the marinas were set up, partly to bring the community the benefits of marine tourism and partly to avoid conflict between leisure and commercial operations in local harbours, there was understandably scepticism from some about such a big investment in these facilities. 21 years on, and it’s clear that this investment was sound. OML enjoy a close working relationship with landlords, OIC, and the marinas are now an important part of the marine scene in Orkney. Times are changing in the marine industry and we have seen an increase in smaller commercial vessels, servicing the renewables industry for example, with limited harbour space for them to berth. OML are coming under pressure from commercial operators to provide commercial berthing but the facilities are already full, with many leisure boat owners waiting long periods for a berth to become available. Brian Kynoch, Chair of Orkney Marinas Ltd said ‘It’s great to see the local marine industry thriving. With so much development planned for the future, it’s clear that the demand for these berths is only going to increase. We have raised the issue of lack of space for workboats with Local Councillors and Marine Services and are hopeful that a solution can be found for commercial operators.’
Meantime, the Christmas lights are coming down and the usual seasonal maintenance is taking place at the marinas. Plans are being made for next year and OML are looking forward to facing the challenges of the next 20 years with confidence.
Photograph by Stephen Jenkinson