City leaders defend decline in passenger numbers at Portsmouth International Port

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CONCERNS have been dismissed over a decline in people using Portsmouth International Port.

A council report revealed passenger numbers between March and June were down 8.97 per cent, vehicle numbers were down 5.60 per cent, freight decreased by 0.5 per cent and the number of ships fell by 14.22 per cent.

To lose two ferry operators from the port and to see the number of people using the port reduce so much is very disappointing.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth’s Lib Dem group leader

It comes despite Brittany Ferries, which operates out of the port, revealing this summer was its busiest ever as it carried more than half a million passengers.

Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘This is disappointing news.

‘To lose two ferry operators from the port and to see the number of people using the port reduce so much is very disappointing.’

But a port spokeswoman said: ‘The figures show a snapshot of the first few months of the financial year.

‘The situation has improved since as Brittany Ferries has introduced a new service and traffic through the Port has increased.

‘We now expect to be ahead of our budget by the end of the financial year. We are constantly seeking to reduce our costs. There have been no direct job losses due to the reduction in services.’

Meanwhile, a cruise team from the port has travelled to Seatrade Europe Cruise and River Cruise Convention in Hamburg to highlight Portsmouth as a destination.

Tory council leader Donna Jones has already spoken of her desire to see bigger cruise liners in the region.

Cllr Jones said: ‘We have a clear business plan to put Portsmouth on the map and to attract people to the city that have not visited us before.

‘The Port is a key part of the vision.

‘Today harbour master Rupert Taylor has travelled to Hamburg for the Seatrade Europe convention which brings the biggest cruise operators from around the world together.

‘I also discussed ways to maximise our port activity with the Mayor of Caen when I visited the city in June this year.’