MP Richard Drax officially opened the new berth extension at Portland Port
“WE’RE open for business” – that was the message from the Portland Port team as the extension of the main cruise berth was officially opened.
South Dorset MP Richard Drax joined chairman of Portland Port Christopher Langham yesterday to formally cut the ribbon at the berth which will allow some of the world’s biggest cruise liners to dock in the port.
The new facility, at the outer coaling pier, will now be able to accommodate vessels with length overall’s (LOA) of up to 340 metres.
At the opening ceremony Mr Langham said the project was a ‘long term investment’ which will give the area a substantial economic boost.
He said: “Evidence shows that cruise ships are getting bigger and bigger and we could see that if we didn’t grow with them we would be left behind.
“It is already showing every sign of paying off. This year we have 24 ships booked in which will carry a record-breaking 36,000 customers who will spend an estimated £1.5 million in the area.”
Previously only handling vessels of up to 300m LOA, the extension means that Portland is now one of only a few English Channel ports that can take ships of such size.
The design involved building two large structures 100m apart and linked by walkways. Each structure consists of a 1,200 tonne concrete platform set on seven steel piles driven into the seabed.
Mr Drax said: “I am a great believer in the future of this port, I would go so far as to say it is the engine room of Weymouth and Portland, in that it creates so many jobs. This is exactly what we need and more of it. It is an absolutely extraordinary achievement,There are only two ships in the world which can’t fit here.”
“If we can somehow connect better with our wider area in Swanage and Weymouth we can really sell ourselves down here. Get people spending less time travelling and more time enjoying themselves here.”
Whilst the major engineering project has been several years in the planning and stages, it only took seven months to complete the project from design.
Mayor of Weymouth and Portland Richard Kosior said: “This berth extension is very important, it shows the rest of the world that we are open for business. Weymouth and Portland has so much to offer, we just need to give it a little push and convince passengers to stay here and not travel off to Stonehenge.”
The first vessel to use the extension will be Holland America’s Koningsdam on May 11 followed Disney Magic on May 23