Ambitious plans to create a deep water port at Stornoway harbour are essential to allow the Outer Hebrides to benefit from the burgeoning cruise tourism market and bring new income and jobs to the islands, an event will hear tomorrow (Thursday, 7 November).

The deep water port is part of Stornoway Port Authority’s 20-year Master Plan and will be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in the Hebrides.

Alex Macleod, the port authority’s chief executive, will outline the plan and how it will help attract future cruise traffic, at a two-day workshop being held in Stornoway.

The event, being held at An Lanntair tomorrow and Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s office on Friday, is part of HIE’s Be Business Brave series and is a partnership with the port authority and Outer Hebrides Tourism.

At present, Stornoway attracts relatively few large cruise vessels, as those over 156 metres in length are unable to berth alongside, and passengers are brought ashore by small tender. To maintain and grow the cruise market, Stornoway needs a facility for berthing cruise ships up to 350 metres long.

This would attract an additional 35-40 vessels a year, creating a significant number of business opportunities throughout the island as visitor numbers entering through the port continue to increase.

Alex Macleod said: “The deep water port is an essential development for Stornoway and the Outer Hebrides if we are serious about maximising the benefits that the cruise industry can bring. Other areas are seeing those benefits but at present we are restricted in the types of vessels we can attract.

“The project offers huge potential for the islands in terms of increasing visitor numbers and the jobs that will help create.”

In April, marine consulting civil engineers Wallace Stone were awarded the contract to design Phase 1 of the deep water port.

The project also includes a new deep-water berth for a freight ferry and for larger cargo vessels; berthing and unloading facilities for renewable energy components and development land for a range of uses.