GREENOCK’S Ocean Terminal could become as popular for cruising as premier destination Alaska, according to a new report.

The terminal was highlighted in a Scottish Enterprise study into the future of the cruise industry in Scotland.

Greenock was identified as having the potential to become a new ‘cruising ground’, comparable to the US state.

The study says: “The similarities between the west coast of Scotland and Alaska include the superb coastal and inland scenery, cruising ground protected by a series of offshore islands, a wide variety of exotic wildlife, picturesque coastal towns and access to major international airports.”

It estimated that the multi-million pound plans to extend the Greenock terminal could increase the number of cruise ship visitors from around 100,000 to 122,000 a year by 2029.

The outline business case for the terminal extension has been agreed by Inverclyde’s environment and regeneration committee and the Glasgow Region City Deal Cabinet.

The favourable comparison with Alaska was highlighted by the cabinet, which oversees a number of projects being financed through the £1 billion City Deal agreement signed with the UK and Scottish governments and eight councils.

A total of three developments will take place in Inverclyde: £14.2m for the terminal quayside, £3.8m at Inverkip to build a roundabout and also improve the junction into the former power station site, plus a possible £9.4m to establish a ‘renewables hub’ at Inchgreen, which is due to start in 2021 but has still to be agreed.

The Glasgow cabinet is giving strong support to the terminal plan for a new cruise ship floating pontoon sited to the east of the current container quay. Ships would berth there, leaving more space at the existing terminal for container ships.

Passengers would walk into a new arrival/departure building with improved facilities, and there would also be a permanent exhibition for the George Wyllie art collection and a top floor restaurant.

The cabinet reports states: “Up to 60 cruise liner vessels use the port annually. Container growth into Greenock is growing at around five per cent a year, and logistics space and berth capacity is limited.

“Owners Peel Group have advised that current levels and future growth in cruise vessel demand is incompatible with growth in the prime port container terminal business, and have not sought to increase cruise traffic for the last three years. The port is currently restricting the number of vessels using Greenock.

“Cruise tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in international tourism. Greenock is the prime destination of choice for cruise vessels visiting Scotland, and is unable to maintain current vessel visits due to freight conflicts and berth capacity.

“The Ocean Terminal project demonstrates a strong fit with national, regional and local economic policies, and is a major element within Inverclyde’s economic strategy that seeks to diversify the economy, build sustainable growth through tourism and support inclusion.

“It will make a significant contribution to economic growth and international tourism across the City Region.

“The terminal facility will allow Scotland and Inverclyde to continue to offer cruise access and increase cruise liner visits to Scotland.”

The cabinet said Inverclyde Council and its partners, including Riverside Inverclyde and River Clyde Homes, are at the heart of transforming the area through major regeneration initiatives. These focus on building additional capacity in the economy, through business support measures, inward investment and diversification.

The report said cruise tourism is a sector witnessing strong and sustainable growth.

It said: “Investment in a new dedicated quay berth and landside facilities would support major growth in activity and support national, regional and local policies to boost tourism numbers, spend and market penetration, while supporting local regeneration efforts.

“The project will deliver tourism growth in a growing sector for Scotland,  increase cruise tourism and visitor spend in the West of Scotland, increase local spend in an area of significant deprivation and support town centre regeneration in Greenock, whilst enabling the wider development of the port for commercial port activity.

“Inverclyde seeks to build on its national gateway port status and tourism offer with a 21st century cruise liner terminal that can exploit excellent links to all Scottish central belt tourism destinations and the spectacular setting of the Clyde.”