Leader of the national Liberal Democrats party, Sir Ed Davey, said he was ‘impressed’ by the city council’s 20-year strategy for the site following a visit this weekend.
During his trip, Mr Davey was shown recent upgrades to the port – including a £2m investment into creating a longer berth for cruise ships.
As reported, the Lib Dem-run council last month approved a £92m plan for the next two decades. Among plans for the cash are a new 400-lorry ‘satellite site’, ‘smart’ booking systems and a walkway linking the terminal to cruise berths.
Speaking to The News, Mr Davey said: ‘I’m really impressed by the way Portsmouth City Council is investing in this port because it’s important for the economy in Portsmouth and the whole of the United Kingdom, to be honest.
‘They’ve got a real plan not just for this year but for the next 20 years and that’s the sort of long-term planning we don’t often see but we’re seeing it here thanks to the council.
‘One of the great things about Portsmouth City Council in recent years is that by diversifying they’ve managed to keep council tax lower, they’ve managed to keep services and by diversifying the income coming into the council that’s great news for the local taxpayer.’
Work on installing extra solar panels, dredging the port for larger ships and extending cruise berths is already under way.
Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Just this week we have seen Virgin Voyages come back and we are seeing more and more cruise liners wanting to port here.
‘We know that every time a cruise ship comes in and out it brings £1.5m into the local economy.
‘To ensure the future of the port we needed to diversify and that costs money but we’re already seeing a return on some of the changes we have made. For example, the Saga and Fred Olsen cruises couldn’t have come here before without us extending the berth.’
Mike Sellers, the director of Portsmouth International Port, added: ‘The masterplan set out for the next 20 years has been built around sustainability and the changes to trade post-Brexit and the pandemic, with the supply chain issues.
‘We have had great support from the council with the approval of funding. But it is not without its challenges.
‘By the end of the year three-quarters of our energy should come from renewable sources and to accommodate that, anywhere in the port with a flat roof has a solar panel on it.
‘The next big challenge will be around sustainable ships coming in. Our biggest customer Brittany Ferries is moving towards liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as hybrid ferries that use LNG and electricity. We need to be able to supply them with enough electrical charge here for them to run.’