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The formal 'first turf' for the new deep water port in Stornoway is to be cut on Monday lunchtime (16 May) by Scotland’s deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP.

Mr Swinney will join Stornoway Port Authority executives and contractors for the official ceremony, which marks the start of work on what has been called ‘a new gateway to the Outer Hebrides.’

The port authority confirmed last month that the new deep water terminal, which will have a minimum 10-metre alongside depth and will be able to accommodate vessels up to 360m in length, will be ready to welcome large cruise vessels by the start of the 2024 season.

The improved accessibility for large vessels will mean the potential for much more tourist traffic through Stornoway Port and remove the need for large vessels to anchor outside the port itself and tender passengers in.

A number of cruise lines have already confirmed calls at the new berth for the 2024 season and Stornoway Port Authority is expecting many more bookings in the months ahead.

SPA chief executive Alex MacLeod attended the Seatrade Cruise Global 2022 event in Miami last month and said: “It is fantastic to be able to confirm that this facility will be ready well in time for the 2024 cruise season.”

Monday’s turf-cutting will mean the beginning of a £49 million construction contract for building and civil engineering firm McLaughlin and Harvey.

Announcing the award of the contract on 12 April, they said: “The Deep Water Terminal will provide modern facilities for a variety of sectors, including the energy and transport industries, and its design will enable it to be adapted for a wide range of future uses.

“As well as being able to accommodate on and offshore wind farm vessels and support other energy sector activity, development of the terminal will also increase the capabilities and flexibility of the Arnish fabrication yard at Stornoway.”

Deputy First Minister Mr Swinney is chair of the Stornoway Deep Water Terminal board and will attend a meeting of the board at the Caberfeidh Hotel after the on-site ceremony.

Speaking as the construction contract was awarded, he said: “The development of the Stornoway Deep Water Terminal will be a game changer for the local economy and for Scotland’s aspirations to grow our renewables and cruise sectors.

“The Scottish Government has long been supportive of this project, which will create jobs and multiple economic benefits for the Hebrides.

“The terminal is a key element of the Islands Growth Deal and will enable cruise traffic and expansion of the offshore renewables supply chain in the wake of the ScotWind offshore wind leasing round, as well as providing infrastructure for a range of other potential activities.

“I am pleased to see work now getting underway and this important project taking a significant step forward.”

Pictures show artists’ impressions of the new terminal in use for cruise and industry vessels (Stornoway Port Authority).