WORK has started on the new £19 million Greenock Ocean Terminal development.

A barge is anchored behind the Waterfront Cinema installing huge concrete posts that will support a pontoon for visiting cruise ship passengers and crew.

The structure will link to the shore where a new visitor centre will be built, which will also house a restaurant and an art museum in tribute to the late Gourock-based sculptor George Wyllie.

The pontoon berth is expected to be finished by March next year, in time for the start of the 2020 Greenock cruise call season.

The visitor centre is due for completion in August.

Inverclyde Council and terminal operators Peel Ports are leading the project.

Councillor Michael McCormick, convener of environment and regeneration, said: "It's a major project and one of the three City Deal developments.

"We're hoping to increase the cruise ship passenger numbers to 200,000 a year with this new facility. "It will also have the Wyllieum - the George Wyllie museum - which I think will be an interesting visitor attraction for the area as well.

"There's also going to be a restaurant upstairs with panoramic views of the river.

"It's all going to add to the attraction of people coming to Inverclyde and provide a better experience for visitors coming off the cruise ships.

"The other good thing is that when the facility is not being used by passengers and crew in the winter months, the space will be available for the community to use. "I'm very excited to see work getting started and I look forward to it being ready for the start of the 2020 cruise ship season."

Another added bonus of the project is that the new pontoon is being built at Peel's Inchgreen Dry Dock in Greenock.

The entire development, including the visitor centre, will cost £19.2m.

Just under £10m is being provided by the UK and Scottish governments through the Glasgow region City Deal scheme, with Peel stumping up £8m.

The project, particularly the Wyllieum, has attracted a £1.5m grant from arts charity, the Dunard Fund.

Increasing numbers of cruise ship visits coupled with the busy container side of the business means the ocean terminal is currently operating at capacity.

It is estimated that the new facility will be worth £26m a year to the Scottish economy.