Planned cruise facility location changed as spend doubles.
BBC News have reported that Belfast is to get a new cruise terminal, but not at the originally planned location in the Titanic Quarter. The new location at D3 had been the subject of rumour and speculation over recent months. D3 is located away from the city centre, next to the RSPB "Belfast WOW" wildlife reserve and close to Holywood Exchange. The location is currently empty having previously been used for storage and most recently as a park and ride facility for events such as last years Tall Ships and the Giro D' Italia.
A planning application for the new development is about to be submitted, with the harbour reportedly hopeful of a decision within a few months. With a construction time estimated at 8 months the new facility could be ready for the 2017 cruise season. 2016 is set to be another record year for cruise calls to the city, with some 81 calls expected this year. This will see an increase in the number of cruise passengers and crew from last years figure of 115,000 to around 145,000.
The new plan sees the original plan for a cruise terminal at Alexandra Dock near Titanic Belfast shelved. That location was closer to the City Centre, but was blighted by environmental concerns. However the new location on Airport Road West, which is still in the harbour estate and opposite the Stena Line Cairnryan terminal will allow the facility to be used for cargo ships in the off-season. Cruise passengers will be able to disembark at a purpose-built facility for the first time rather than at the cargo facilities at Stormont Wharf, or the temporary facility established at D1 this year.
The ability to handle cargo ships will also mean that the facility will be in use year-round rather than just the months of the year when cruise ships call, generally from the end of March to the end of September. The increased cost of the facility of £12-14m has been attributed to the ability to handle cargo ships according to the BBC. The new facility has been designed to accommodate the next generation of even larger cruise ships planned by operators.
Among the cruise ship visits for 2016 will by Princess Cruises 5,100 passenger Regal Princess, and Cunard's £350m Queen Elizabeth.
Title image: An artists impression of the planned cruise facility at Belfast's D3. Belfast Harbour.