It's been a while since plans for a new purpose-built cruise terminal in the Belfast Harbour estate were revealed, however there appears to be a lot of interest (and questions) from visitors to this site about the new development. In this article I will attempt to answer some of those questions.
Where will the new cruise terminal be located?
The proposed new cruise facility would be located in an area currently designated as D3. This is the area currently lying unused beside the RSPB 'Belfast WOW' sanctuary and the opposite side of the river to Stena Line's Scotland terminal (Victoria Terminal 4). Previously some cruise vessels have been handled at D1, which is the other side of the RSPB sanctuary, but this area is currently in use for wind farm work. Normally cruise ship passengers are handled at Stormont Wharf on the other side of the River Lagan in what was built as a cargo facility. The new facility is planned to be located on the outskirts of the port close to Bombardier, George Best Belfast City Airport, and Hollywood Exchange.
What will the new facility consist of?
The planning application says "Construction of a new multi-purpose facility at D3 for berthing of cruise ships, and for lay-by and transient storage of project cargo, break bulk and dry bulk during cruise ship off season. Development comprises the construction of 340m long solid quay with mooring dolphins, dredging of the berthing pocket and infilling behind the new quay wall using imported clean fill materials, construction of a 25m wide piled relieving slab along the quay length, with heavy duty paving surfacing on the quay/slab hinterland, access road, security gates, access barrier and kiosk at Airport Road West, modular terminal building, shore side facilities, lighting, fencing, screen bund and landscaping."
Basically the facility will handle cruise ships during the cruise season and cargo vessels outside of the cruise season. The 340m long quay should be able to accommodate the largest cruise ships currently in service. A dedicated terminal facility will be provided for cruise ship passengers as well as cargo handling facilities.
When will construction start and when will the facility be ready to use?
Construction is currently planned to start around September 2017, subject to planning approval. Completion is expected around March 2018 in time for the next cruise season. It had originally been intended that the terminal would have been completed in time for this years cruise season, however the planning consultation period appears to have taken longer than initially anticipated.
What happened to the previously announced plan for a terminal in the Titanic Quarter?
The previous proposal at Alexandra Dock was shelved due to environmental concerns. Alexandra Dock itself is an area of archaeological interest and is adjacent to 2 special areas of conservation. The D3 proposal will also be able to handle larger vessels than the planned Alexandra Dock facility and is not subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment.
How many cruise ships will use the new facility?
This will depend on how many operators schedule visits to Belfast, however the number of 'cruise calls' has been increasing year-on-year with a total of 88 expected this year (up from 81 last year). However, the provision of a dedicated facility is expected to increase the number of vessels and passengers calling at Belfast.
How much is this new development costing, and who is paying for it?
The proposed facility at D3 is expected to cost around £15 million and will be paid for wholly by Belfast Harbour themselves.
Can I view the planning application?
Yes. The planning application ( LA04/2016/0421/F) can be viewed here.