PLANS have been unveiled for Scotland’s first purpose-built cruise ship terminal on the mainland at the site of a decommissioned coal-fired power station.
The development, at Cockenzie in East Lothian, would be able to accommodate modern liners that are unable to dock further up the Firth of Forth because of their height and width.
The seaside town is “uniquely placed to be the gateway for cruise visitors”, according to the prospective developers, who hope that Cockenzie would offer a natural stopping off point for cruise ships from Europe and the Baltic countries.
It is estimated that Cockenzie could accommodate at least 200 cruise liners a year, bringing around 500,000 visitors to Scotland. At present only Orkney has a purpose-built terminal for cruise ships in Scotland, although many liners call into Scottish ports around the country.
In addition to the terminal, the plans for 120-acre site that houses the iconic twin-chimneyed Cockenzie power station include an eco village, a green-themed visitor centre dedicated to naturalist John Muir and a retail and business park.
The cost of the entire scheme is expected to be around £300 million, with construction taking 10 to 15 years.
A question mark remains over the future of the site after the plug was pulled last month on controversial plans by Scottish Enterprise to build a giant marine energy park there.
Site owner Scottish Power has been granted planning consent to replace the decommissioned plant with a more environmentally friendly gas-fired version, but the firm says it remains “difficult to make that sort of investment decision” at the present time.
The latest proposition is the brainchild of Colin McCulloch, John Miller and Kevin Doyle, the Lothian businessmen behind Cockenzie Development Company (CDC).
Miller claims the new scheme could be “arguably the most significant economic development in Scotland”.
Funding is expected to come from a mixture of private investment, some of which is already in place, Scottish Government backing and EU initiatives such as the trans-European transport network (TEN-T).
Professor Alfred Baird, a maritime transport expert at Edinburgh Napier University, was involved in a study for Scottish Power in the 1990s which concluded it was an ideal location for a modern cruise ship terminal.
“It would easily represent the biggest single economic development in East Lothian for generations,” he said. “People should be aware that there is currently nowhere for the large cruise ships to go on the Forth. Scotland’s capital region therefore misses out on hundreds of port visits by cruise ships and hundreds of thousands of visitors – Copenhagen gets around 500 cruise ship visits per year, whilst the Forth gets only 70 or 80.”