Continued growth in the oil and gas sector was reflected in the increase in support vessels that used the port over the first six months of the year – up nine per cent from 2,580 in 2011 to 2,814 in 2012 – a further demonstration of the significant role the harbour plays within the energy industry and the benefits it provides to both Scotland and the UK.

The half-year figures detail increases in traffic with both vessel numbers and tonnage on the rise. Total vessel numbers rose by five per cent on the same period last year to nearly 4,000 while shipping tonnage increased by almost nine per cent – from 12.2 million tonnes to 13.3 million tonnes.

Exported goods including oil and gas-related equipment, scrap metal, salmon feed and timber logs also increased by more than eight per cent to 1.37 million tonnes during the first six months of 2012. Imported cargoes increased slightly by 0.3 per cent to 1.07 million tonnes.

The figures from Aberdeen Harbour – the centre of activity for the energy industry’s marine operations in North-west Europe – were released just weeks after work commenced on a £5.2 million program of improvements including the widening and deepening of the navigation channel.

The Northlink ferry services continue to provide a vital link for those travelling between the mainland and the Northern Isles, with around 66,500 passengers passing through the port.

Chief executive of Aberdeen Harbour Board, Colin Parker, said: ‘These are particularly strong results which once again highlight Aberdeen Harbour’s contribution to both the regional and national economy, and the vital role it holds within the energy industry. We are pleased with the performance over the first six months of 2012 and are equally proud of the role Aberdeen Harbour has played in handling the growth in exports generated by the local industries.

‘We are conscious of the need to maintain and improve upon the high standards port users expect and our continuing investment will allow the harbour to keep ahead of the game in order to benefit our existing customers while allowing us to service emerging markets such as decommissioning and offshore wind turbine deployment.

‘The large increases in harbour traffic reflect the upsurge in North Sea activity, where exploration continues at pace with significant numbers of support vessels required to service those endeavours. This activity is anticipated to continue creating major economic benefits and opportunities for those involved in the energy sector. As such, continued investment in our facilities is vital to ensure that we are best placed to support the current and future needs of the industry.’

Aberdeen Central MSP, Kevin Stewart said: “These figures are excellent news for the city, the region and for Scotland as a whole, at a time when the North Sea is a major focus for investment and for ongoing activity. The harbour continues to thrive and has been a vital to the North East since the city itself was in its infancy. These dynamic results bring home the enormous contribution our harbour makes to the energy sector, and further demonstrate the key role the port will continue to play in the offshore industry.”

Mr Stewart, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Oil and Gas, added: “Investment in infrastructure is necessary to ensure Aberdeen remains the home of the energy industry, and I congratulate the harbour board for continuing to devote significant expenditure to ensure the facilities and services it provides are the strongest available and oil, gas and renewables firms will continue to be attracted to our shores for the many decades ahead.”