Port deserves much praise for attracting cruise market

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Come to Portsmouth and see the world. For as long as anyone can remember, a version of that slogan has been used to tempt people into a career with the Royal Navy.

The city became synonymous with ships bearing the bulk of the UK’s banana imports as well as vast amounts of tomatoes from the Channel Islands.

Next, Portsmouth’s superb natural harbour and excellent south coast position was exploited by ferry firms who turned it into the capital of cross-Channel cruising.

This was followed by links to northern Spain.

And the size of the ships kept growing.

So it made perfect sense to extend the port to the ever-growing cruise market. But to do that the one-time Continental Ferry Port needed a makeover.

Spotting a gap in the market, the port invested millions of pounds replacing the rickety old passenger terminal, extending one of the berths and increasing the space in which ships manoeuvre once in port.

And so the cruise ships started to arrive – 44 of them will call here this year.

They’re not the leviathans we see down the road at Southampton, but the smaller cruise ships satisfying a niche market.

But what is so encouraging is that some of the companies are selling the city’s attractions as well as the cruising facilities.

Yesterday, at an expo at Portsmouth International Port, as it is now named, cruise ship tour operators from around the country were sold the city as well as the port.

Mike Deegan, the fleet operations director for Noble Caledonia, said: ‘The transport links here in Portsmouth are second to none – it just has everything.

‘In the past we’ve been criticised for bringing passengers down and putting them straight on the ships.Now we bring them down a couple of days early because Portsmouth has such a wealth of attractions.’

All those involved in the management of the port should be congratulated on having the foresight to introduce a new strand of business to the port and spotting a gap in the market – particularly during a recession.