An ambitious £45 million plan to redevelop the main harbour in the Outer Hebrides – and cater for large cruise ships – was unveiled yesterday.
Stornoway Port Authority is seeking bids to design one of the biggest projects it has ever undertaken.
The authority plans to develop a deep-water port as part of its 20-year ‘Master Plan’ aimed at creating significant economic growth for the islands.
Harbour bosses say the deep-water port proposal is crucial to accelerate local growth in the burgeoning cruise business, by providing improved facilities for larger ships that cannot currently berth alongside.
Stornoway welcomed 43 cruise ships in 2017, but attracts relatively few large vessels as those over 156 metres in length are unable to berth alongside, and passengers are brought ashore by small tender.
To maintain and grow the cruise market, Stornoway needs a facility for berthing cruise ships up to 350 metres long.
This would attract an additional 35-40 vessels a year, creating a significant number of business opportunities throughout the island as visitor numbers entering through the port continue to increase.
The project also includes a new deep-water berth for a freight ferry and for larger cargo vessels and berthing and unloading facilities for renewable energy components.
Additionally, there are plans for a new link road along the foreshore to Arnish fabrication yard.
The works will include land remodelling, dredging, land reclamation, a new quay, finger pier and linkspan and associated civil engineering works.
Stornoway Port Authority chief executive Alex Macleod said: “The tendering of the design contract marks a significant date for the Port Authority and the Hebrides.
“This is a hugely exciting opportunity which will have transformational effects on the local economy and beyond.
“Whilst the work on the design continues, we will work with a number of agencies, including the Scottish Government, to investigate and source innovative ways to fund the project.”
Paul Wheelhouse, minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, who met Port Authority officials this week, said he was impressed by the ambitious vision which presents an attractive proposition.
He said he will listen carefully to the authority’s business case and will work in partnership to deliver the proposals.
Last month the Port Authority issued a tender for a £3.9 million contract for plans to develop a new marina at Newton Basin.
The design is due to be completed by May next year and it is hoped construction work can start by the end of 2019, with a target for completion by June 2021.