Immigration cruise ship checks spark docking fear

CONCERNS were raised today that a new system of immigration checks for cruise ship passengers could have a detrimental effect on the number of vessels calling at terminals in the Forth.

A new system, to tighten security, was brought in without any consultation with the industry requiring all passengers to have their documents checked, face to face, at the first UK port they arrive in,

And with 40 per cent of all vessels arriving at Scottish ports – including Leith, South Queensferry and Rosyth – before other UK destinations, there are fears the new system could deter operators from docking.

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Cruise operators have expressed concern over the proposed new system, which they say could lead to massive delays and inconvenience to passengers wishing to getting ashore.

Nationalist MSP Stuart McMillan said the new system must be changed before it damages a “vital” industry,

Mr McMillan, convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on recreational boating and marine tourism, has contacted UK Immigration Minister Mark Harper about the “detrimental effect” the system will have on the industry, which contributed an estimated £41.2 million to the Scottish economy last year. Cruise ships are said to have brought 379,955 people to Scotland’s shores last year, up 19 per cent on 2011.

The three Forth terminals between them saw 76 cruise ships dock, carrying almost 80,000 passengers.

Mr McMillan: “I have heard passengers have faced lengthy delays as a result of this system which is having a detrimental effect on the industry in Scotland,” he said.

He raised the issue after being contacted by Richard Alexander, chairman of Cruise Scotland, which promotes Scottish ports as a destination for cruise ships.

In a letter to the MSP, Mr Alexander said a number of cruise lines “have already expressed extreme dissatisfaction” over the requirement to have face-to-document checks.

In the past, the UK Border Force has cleared cruise ships on the basis of passenger and crew manifests submitted in advance.