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Record cruise ship visit christens new £26m berth development at Portland Port

The MSC Virtuosa passes through the breakwaters of Portland Harbour

Posted on May 8, 2023

A Dorset port has welcomed a record 5,000 passengers in its first cruise call at its newly developed deep-water berth.

Portland Port announced last week (April 28) that the MSC Virtuosa has brought the greatest number of guests of any single vessel visiting the port so far.

The MSC Virtuosa is the first cruise ship to use the port’s new berth, which is part of a £26m redevelopment project to boost capacity and drive growth.

Ian McQuade, Portland Port’s commercial general manager, said: “The arrival of the MSC Virtuosa marks a major milestone for the port. MSC Virtuosa has brought the greatest number of passengers of any single cruise ship by some margin, considerably more than our previous record of 3,500.

“Guests from the ship have used our fleet of over 12 complimentary buses to explore the local area and its attractions. They are among a record 130,000 guests who will be visiting Portland on cruise ships this year.”

Mr McQuade added: “It is exciting to see our new berth in operation for the first time as part of the largest ever investment in the port and its infrastructure.

“Increasing our capacity and facilities is key to the development of the port, its continued growth and our ability to build upon our contribution to the local economy, which stands at about £10m from cruise calls alone.”

Redevelopment of deep-water quays at the port will enhance its cruise and cargo handling operations as well as its service provision to vessels including those from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. It will enable the port to meet rising demand and keep ahead of the trend for increasing sizes of cruise ships, including liners of up to 350m in length.

As well as 5,000 passengers, the MSC Virtuosa has 1,500 crew aboard. The MSC Virtuosa calls into the island on a four-day ‘Portland and Cherbourg Getaway’ from Southampton.

The MSC Virtuosa is the fourth cruise call of the year at Portland, and is the first of 18 calls between now and the end of May.

The cruise ship follows calls by the Holland America Lines’ MS Zuiderdam and Hurtigruten’s MS Otto Sverdrup, which both made their inaugural visits to the port when they stopped on consecutive days earlier in April, the latter of which returns to Portland again on Sunday.

Portland Port is based in South Dorset and has operated on a commercial basis since 1996. It has a number of commercial tenants and provides maritime and marine related services.

Bosses at the port recently insisted it is “business as usual” after agreeing to support controversial Government plans to accommodate hundreds of asylum seekers on a barge. The Home Office has confirmed it is looking to house 500 single men on the three-storey, 222-room boat, while their asylum claims are processed.


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