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Invergordon £25m investment plan amidst cruise business shake-up

By SPP Reporter

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The Koningsdam, the 1000the cruise liner to visit Invergordon
The Koningsdam, the 1000the cruise liner to visit Invergordon

A SHAKE-UP in the record-breaking cruise liner business in Invergordon has been revealed to coincide with a major milestone – and plans to pump £25 million into expanding facilities.

The 1000th cruise liner sailed into the Easter Ross port last Thursday as part of another trailblazing year for the Port of Cromarty Firth.

The Koningsdam – launched earlier this year – made her maiden voyage into port carrying 2606 passengers.

During this record-breaking season, the port will welcome 63 ships and 96,500 passengers, bringing an estimated £11 million into the Highland economy.

Plans are now afoot to invest up to £25 million into further improving quayside facilities to ensure the port can continue to compete for monster liners capable of bringing up to 5000 passengers to the port.

Outlining plans for the future, Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, says he’s keen to capitalise on the growth in this industry and attract more of the new, larger cruise ships into the area. He said: “These larger vessels can be worth around £500,000 to the local economy as they can carry up to 5000 passengers.

“Our deepwater port is the ideal location to grow and develop this cruise tourism for the Highlands and the area has so much to offer in terms of shore excursions. The local infrastructure is more than able to cope with these larger vessels.”

He added: “To secure this business for the local area and the rest of the Highlands, we need to invest in a new quayside, along with enhanced passenger facilities and overall visitor experience. We are in competition with other UK ports who are investing in new facilities, so we must do all we can to boost the number of ships coming into the Cromarty Firth.

“We have a vision for a new berth at a significant additional investment of £25 million to accommodate the requirements of the modern passenger and the larger ships that are coming into the port.”

The port currently operates its cruise business in a joint venture under the Cruise Highlands brand. It believes there’s a need for significant investment in the future potential of the port’s cruise business, which it says is more difficult for private investors to justify due to the long-term investments required.

Bob Buskie: 'Our deepwater port is the ideal location to grow and develop this cruise tourism for the Highlands
Bob Buskie: 'Our deepwater port is the ideal location to grow and develop this cruise tourism for the Highlands

The current joint venture arrangement is set to end with the Port of Cromarty Firth poised to operate its own cruise company from October. It will retain the services of Captain Iain Dunderdale. He will continue to run the cruise business.

“We are very different to a private company,” said Mr Buskie. “As a trust port we have the ability to invest in projects for the good of the community and we are able to take a longer term view on return on investment. We believe this development is critical to the area, as so many businesses rely on the income from our cruise passengers.

“Our vision for Invergordon and the Port of Cromarty Firth is to offer the best possible Highland experience to visitors. This will help attract more cruise business and encourage people to return to our beautiful region time and again.”

This year’s season has included two trips by Disney Magic and the first visit of Celebrity Silhouette, a 122,000 tonne cruise liner which brought 2700 passengers into Invergordon on Monday.

Captain Iain Dunderdale added: “I’m excited to be part of this new cruise vision for the Port of Cromarty Firth. Having worked for the port for decades, I know that the team here are the safest and most experienced pair of hands to build and develop this new cruise company.”

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