Cockenzie cruise ship port ‘would be Forth magnet’

The decommissioned power station at Cockenzie. Picture: Jayne Emsley
The decommissioned power station at Cockenzie. Picture: Jayne Emsley
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A MARINE terminal on the site of the former Cockenzie Power Station would create a major new industry in East Lothian and transform a run-down section of coastline into a “magnet for the south shore of the Forth”.

Thousands of jobs would be generated if the radical plan – noted in a Scottish Government report this week – comes to fruition but the blueprint could be torn up entirely if ScottishPower is granted permission to replace the decommissioned coal-powered station with a gas plant.

How a cruise ship project could work. Picture: contributed

How a cruise ship project could work. Picture: contributed

The Scottish Government’s vision for East Lothian suggests Cockenzie’s future may still lie in generating electricity, but a report also highlights its potential for “port-related development”.

In the 1990s, leading maritime expert Professor Alf Baird was hired by ScottishPower to investigate the case for a £30 million marine terminal to replace Cockenzie Power Station that would bring the world’s biggest cruise ship companies to the East Lothian town.

He said up to half a million people could pass through the area annually, with at least 1000 direct jobs created.

Cockenzie is said to be the “optimal” site for a port because it has little tidal movement, strong rail links and room for expansion. While ships can already dock at Leith, Rosyth and Hound Point, these locations are thought to lack the necessary infrastructure to cater for large cruise liners.

Today, Prof Baird revealed that an American-based developer has expressed interest in creating the major marine terminal at Cockenzie after reading about his presentation to East Lothian Council.

He said: “They have met with the council and ministers, I believe. The firm is involved with supplying terminal services to cruise ship companies in the US and the Caribbean.

“They have a Scottish ex-pat connection and could tell from a cruise critics’ website that cruise ships were not being dealt with properly in the Forth and neither Leith, Rosyth nor Hound Point were able to accommodate the largest vessels properly.”

The Napier University academic added that if the project was to get off the ground Transport Scotland should be the agency to manage it.

Independent Councillor David Berry is a strong supporter of the marine plan. He said: “I think it would be the economic hub of East Lothian and the east side of Edinburgh.

“It would become a focus because you have a rail link and the idea of offloading cruise ships onto trains directly and taking them wherever they want to go in Scotland is entirely feasible. We also have the A1 and the city bypass.

“East Lothian has a pretty attractive coastline if you look at the main part from Seton Sands on the east, but westwards there are ash lagoons that are becoming a very popular nature haunt. But we have a bit in the middle which includes the Prestonpans’ foreshore and Cockenzie Power Station that isn’t fit for purpose.

“A redevelopment of Prestonpans seafront would stop the town turning its back on the sea. The terminal could be built with a marina, which we are in desperate need of, and it could be a magnet for the south shores of the Forth.”

Dream of sailing

Professor Alf Baird previously said Edinburgh should be like Copenhagen or Bergen – with hundreds of visits a year – as a luxury cruise liner destination.

He said between 200 and 500 ships could dock at Cockenzie each year if the plan went ahead. The project could be funded through Scottish Government investment, European funding, and private funds, with the port potentially leased to an operator for decades.

Councillors previously met ScottishPower, which owns the site, about the Cockenzie Marine Terminal plan.