A plan for how Orkney's harbours could potentially be developed in the coming years is due to be consulted on and then built upon over the next 12 months.
The Draft Orkney Harbours Masterplan, which was presented to Councillors recently, looks at proposals for how Orkney Islands Council could best invest in the county's piers, harbours and vessels in the coming years.
This investment would allow the harbour operations to remain successful, ensure the continuing safe and effective movement of freight, fuel and people to from and around Orkney and, crucially, create the maximum benefits for Orkney from marine activity, building on the success of Hatston, the enormous potential of Scapa Flow and Orkney's strategic geographic location.
The draft masterplan sets out a series of options which will now be explored further across two stages, having already taken account of the views of a range of stakeholders across the marine, tourism, transport, logistics, fishing and aquaculture sectors and economic and environmental assessment.
Stage One focuses on potential development options at four key sites; namely Kirkwall pier, which could see an extension for future ferries and to better accommodate aquaculture and yachting growth; Hatston, which has potential for a significant lay down area for oil and gas support; Scapa Pier, where an extension could sustain and better support current activity in Scapa Flow and future proof fuel supplies to Orkney; and finally Scapa Flow which could see the development of a new deep water berth of strategic importance for offshore platform and construction activities.
Minor developments at Lyness and Stromness are also being explored.
Stage Two would cover potential options for future growth of harbour facilities serving Orkney's North and South isles, some of which will be dependent on the outcome of the ongoing Orkney Inter Island Transport Study and the Outline Business Case which will also be going to consultation in the near future.
Further exploration work will include business case development and environmental impact assessment to ensure viability and suitability before any investment decisions are taken. Any projects which reach the development stage are likely to require substantial borrowing and grant support to proceed.
Brian Archibald is the Council's Head of Marine Services, Engineering and Transportation. He said: "All harbours need to plan for long term changes to their business and for the infrastructure required in order to stay successful. This is done through the Port Master Planning process and this is the first one which Orkney has developed. Changes in Flotta activity and new opportunities in oil and gas, marine renewables, shipping trends, cruise and the huge challenges we face with our ferry service make it essential that we do this now."
Councillor Graham Sinclair is the Chair of the Council's Development and Infrastructure Committee. He said "We would be absolutely clear in saying that this is not a to-do list, rather a list of options similar to that of this term’s Council Plan, around what potentially could be done over the coming years to ensure the long term success of our piers and harbours and in turn, the long term success of Orkney.
"We now want to consult with our communities and our industry sectors, so that we have an agreement in principle that we can grasp the nettle when the time is right - when a business opportunity comes up, when there's a pressing social need or funding becomes available for example. Some of these proposals might not materialise for years and some might be replaced by something else. These are not things we are definitely going to do, they are simply actions which either in whole or in part, can support our piers and harbour operations, ensuring they do not become a financial burden over time and remain a superb asset for this county."
Orkney Islands Council is responsible for 29 piers and harbours.
Details of the draft plan and the consultation process will be made available in due course.