I knew my last day in Aberdeen, Scotland this year was going to be a tough one emotionally so, in preparation, I took some time out early in the day to try to spot some dolphins, which congregate regularly at the harbour mouth.
Aberdeen Harbour mainly services the oil industry; once a vibrant fishing port, these vessels now account for less than 2% of arrivals. Cruise ships and yachts are occasional visitors too but combined their arrivals number only 86, again less than 2%.
Cargo and passenger ferries run by Northlink are the lifeblood of the Orkney and Shetland Isles, with the journey taking 12.5 hours to Lerwick (Shetland), or 14.5 hours for the ferriy is scheduled to call in past Kirkwall (Orkney) on the way. This is a beautiful way to travel to the Northern Isles during the summer, but in the winter the seas off the North coast of Scotland are notoriously choppy, nevertheless the service runs year-round and accounts for 681 out of 7176 arrivals at Aberdeen Harbour.
Aberdeen and Peterhead to the North are ideally situated to service the oil rigs of the North Sea – some 4569 supply vessels, carrying everything from hi-tech machinery down to food for the workers, arrived in Aberdeen last year. It is not just supply vessels; there are standby/safety vessels, tankers and exploration ships which are all here to service the oil industry.
In the old days, Aberdeen had a thriving shipbuilding business – I first stayed in the city 34 years ago and remember the big shipbuilding sheds, though it is possible at that time they were mainly refurbishing existing vessels. At one time there were five shipbuilding companies located at the Granite City Harbour, and between them they built 3011 vessels, according to this website. (The original “Rainbow Warrior” operated by Greenpeace was built here in 1955 – its sinking was a tad controversial!)
These days, as the supply vessels glide in and out of the harbour, you will often see dolphins riding the bow waves, in fact DolphinWatch, run by the RSPB reckon there is a 90% chance of seeing them! It is apparently one of the best places in Europe to see them – but did I? I am afraid not on this occasion. Still, it was a warm, beautiful day and I was content to sit on the railings and capture the comings and goings with my camera.
If you are REALLY interested in the harbour, then its owners, The Aberdeen Harbour Board have a great website. My favourite page lists the vessels currently in port.