The number of cruise ships docking at a popular Scottish island is set to be restricted – after locals complained that the island was being overcrowded with passengers.
Residents of the Orkney Islands claim that tourists are flooding the island’s landmarks, particularly in the capital, Kirkwall.
Some tourist attractions such as Maeshowe, Skara Brae and St. Magnus Cathedral have also had to close temporarily due to the overwhelming number of cruise passengers the times.
Visitor numbers were so high in Kirkwall that safety concerns also forced the council to close some roads, hitting businesses hard.
Orkney residents report that up to 7,000 tourists set foot on the island in one day, with more than 230 ships docking this year.
And now, Council leaders will vote to cap the number of ships arriving, similar to the restrictions imposed on European destinations like Venice and Amsterdam.
A report by the Port Authority’s Committee, expected to be presented to the Chamber on Tuesday, said the number of ships and passengers is causing overcrowding and diluting the tourist experience.
The report recommends restrictions on the number and size of vessels allowed to dock each day.
And it would prohibit returns within four days.
The new “cruise booking policy” would also limit the number of ships allowed in port when major events like the island’s state fair are already drawing large crowds.
The plans also include a first-come, first-served policy for larger ships carrying thousands of passengers, so smaller ships carrying only hundreds of passengers won’t have to be turned away in favor of the larger liners.
The report states: “Concerns expressed locally over the high number of passengers coming ashore from cruise lines have prompted the need for clear, understandable protocols for staff dealing with the large number of bookings and inquiries for cruise lines and their… Services made clear.”
However, it is recognized that the influx of cruise ships to the island is nothing new. The report adds that Haston Pier and Kirkwall Anchorage, the two ports that can handle the largest ships, have seen three or more ships waiting to dock.
Paul Olvhoj, the port authority’s business development manager, told the Times that the number of cruise ships planning to dock on the island is both a challenge and a blessing.
He said: “There is no question that we need to ensure that tourism for all visitors, which is central to the local economy in the Orkney Islands and a major source of employment on the islands, is properly managed.”
Similar restrictions are already in place in cities such as Venice in Italy, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Dubrovnik in Croatia, and city councilors hope this will ease local concerns about the Ifnlux.
Orkney has rapidly become the UK’s most popular cruise ship destination.
The number of ships has increased dramatically since 2017 with around 4,800 passengers and 135 visits.
This year, there are expected to be more than 200 ship visits, with more than 6,000 passengers set foot on the island.
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