Made possible through £11.25m of government funding to transform the city's visitor economy, the facility has been engineered to incorporate wind and solar innovation, and sea water for heating and cooling – the first UK port to utilize the technology, says Portsmouth International Port. Several living walls can be found, serving to purify the air and bring passengers closer to nature, while a sizable contemporary sky garden with seating affords views across the port site. All the elements combined mean the building will generate more energy than it consumes, eventually moving from net carbon neutral to carbon positive.
Further highlights consist of LED ceiling lighting, which can be altered to reflect branding, and an exclusive lounge area for passengers.
Luxury, niche cruising
The terminal has been designed with small to medium sized ships in mind, explains port director Mike Sellers, who has been at Portsmouth International Port for six years and on joining, quickly recognised the port’s potential. ‘I saw the opportunity for more cruise ships, but in 2019, no one had heard of us.’ After attending Seatrade Cruise Global that year to put the destination on the map, Sellers was ready to kickstart plans to develop the port, aspirations that were paused when Covid-19 arrived. Now, he says, ‘We’re ready to push the button we had on hold.’
Portsmouth expects to receive over 100 calls next year – in 2019 it hosted less than 20. ‘We’ve really found that niche, high-end market,’ Sellers adds, the likes of Ponant, Viking and Noble Caledonia among the expedition, boutique and luxury cruise lines set to call at Portsmouth.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, cabinet member responsible for the port, says Portsmouth is ‘offering something different that smaller boutique cruise lines want.’ Enthusiastic at the prospect of Portsmouth Port being able to generate more funds for the local area, he says the 50:50 mix of transit calls and homeporting operations will change, ‘going up to 60% turnarounds.’
Berth extension and Master Plan
Andrew Williamson, recently promoted to head of cruise and ferry, has seen the port’s rapid progression. ‘It’s so exciting,’ he says, while leading Seatrade Cruise on a tour of the terminal on August 18 alongside Sellers. ‘Walking around the building, seeing its completed form, is a proud moment for the entire team… We’ve seen the lengthening of the berth and now the realization of our ambition.’
While pointing out the terminal’s unique features, Williamson says of the Sky Garden, ‘It is an extension of the existing building and open for both cruise and ferry passengers to enjoy. It's the perfect place for a cheeky tipple before you go on a cruise.'
He continues, ‘Hopefully you can see that the finish and the detail in the terminal reflect the type of customers we're going to attract.' Explora I – the first ship from Explora Journeys, the luxury brand of MSC Group – had its UK media launch in Portsmouth last month ahead of its inaugural voyage from Copenhagen on August 1.
Since taking up his previous role of passenger operations manager & PFSO in 2020, Williamson has been on hand to witness the major infrastructure works that have taken place at the port from 2021, including lowering berth 2 by 2.4m so loading can be carried out at dock level, with passengers able to embark via a gantry walkway. The berth was also extended by 40m and a further freestanding ‘dolphin’ mooring structure added.
‘Lengthening the berth to accommodate ships of up to 255m was the initial scope,’ remarks Williamson. ‘And then, within a day of opening the berth, we'd already accepted a ship that was 267m. Most recently, we welcomed TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3 at 293m – the biggest ship ever received in the harbour.’
Member of Parliament Penny Mordaunt, joining the guided tour, describes the terminal as ‘beautiful’ and Portsmouth as a ‘trailblazer’ when it comes to adopting sustainable technologies. From its inception to its completion, she has seen the terminal being extended and is especially impressed by its ability to harvest seawater for heating, as well as the cooling action of the living walls.
Highlighting key attractions for cruise passengers, she names Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Minutes from Portsmouth Harbour, it is home to the Mary Rose, launched in 1511, Victory, the world’s oldest naval vessel, and ironclad warship Warrior built for the Royal Navy in 1859–1861.
‘In addition to that, the seafront and everything that a seaside town brings, we have an artists’ quarter built into the Hot Walls [art hub]. We've got incredible creative industries and an incredible food economy here [and] we have the only World War One remembrance centre in the southeast, apart from the Imperial War Museum,’ Mordaunt states.
The terminal extension was part of a successful £20m bid called Transforming the Visitor Economy, which also includes funding for a lido and the creation of the UK's longest urban park, 'Linear Park,' in the north of the city. The aim of the funding is to boost the local and regional economy, each cruise call having the potential to bring £1.5m into the city through port charges, passenger and crew spend on local goods, and services such as hotels and attractions, and also supplies to the ship.
'Five minutes up the road there's an amazing 1930s lido, a huge five-metre-deep pool,’ says Mordaunt, explaining how £9m of the grant will go towards refurbishing the community asset to its former glory. ‘It needs a huge facelift and its heritage restored. It's just an iconic building in beautiful Art Deco style, and we're now going to be able to do it proper justice.'
When it comes to luxury and boutique lines, Portsmouth ‘is one of the most incredible places in Europe to see waterbirds,’ continues Mordaunt. ‘We've invested hugely in all of our public realm around the outside of the island of Portsea. We've built a new island for the seabirds so you can sit on the shore and watch these incredible animals resting, we have seals here…It's got everything you could possibly want. So I think even if you're new to cruising, Portsmouth is really a place to come.’
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