New member: Portland

Artania entering Portland harbour

Portland Port lies in the heart of the Jurassic Coast, a Unesco world heritage site in the south west of England, UK. Over the last five years it has witnessed remarkable growth in its cruise business: receiving five calls and 1,800 passengers in 2011 and 24 and 36,223 passengers this year. 

This increase is in great part due to the port taking on Ian McQuade as general manager (commercial) in 2007. It was at this time that he set about building relationships with all the cruiselines directly so that, as he explained, it is now an ongoing process of reminding them of Portland’s place on the cruise map. While believing that “you don’t generate business unless you do it yourself,” he feels the time is right to join Cruise Europe which will help take the business to the next level.

“I went to the Dublin Cruise Europe Conference last year as a guest to see how it works. There was a good mix of cruiselines and ports and it was a useful conference. It was good both for the content and the opportunity to talk with cruiseline executives. I was very impressed.”

Portland Port UK’s facilities are being tailored to be able to cater to further cruise growth. The main cruise berth, Outer Coaling Pier, is currently being extended in preparation for the 2017 season. This will allow vessels of 340m in length to come alongside, compared to the current maximum, which is 300m. When completed, the berth will boast a new suite of mooring bollards, high-capacity pneumatic floating fenders and a minimum water depth of 9.6m. 

To further enhance the ports capabilities it is also looking to increase the draught to 10m, or even better to 10.5m, which would also benefit the cargo ships. The aim is to make a decision as to whether to go ahead or not by Seatrade Global in March in order for it to be taken into account in itinerary planning for 2019.

In terms of the passengers, the port has developed dedicated cruise facilities which were updated last year. In July 1999 The Britannia Passenger Terminal was officially opened by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh and, in 2005, it underwent extensive refurbishment.

A new passenger/luggage and visitor handling facility, The Cruise Terminal, has been created by converting a small warehouse at the entrance to Outer Coaling Pier. It comes  complete with an electronic visitor management system, including X-ray, AMD, hand-searching and shore-to-ship liaison. This facility is designed to handle the turnaround of small cruise ships, such as Hebridean Princess, on the quayside. Larger vessels will continue to be turned around in the Britannia Terminal. There is no requirement for transit passengers to pass through either facility.

As it happens the first calls of the season take place on April 26 when Holland America Line’s Rotterdam will call the Outer Coaling Pier and Seabourn Quest the Deepwater Berth, which has a depth of 11.6m and can take ships up to 220m in length.

A big boost to the port this year is the fact that Disney Cruise Lines will call for the first time not once but twice (Disney Magic). This is not only good for the port’s profile but is creating a lot of local interest, explained McQuade.

Berth hire is strictly on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a bunker operator based at the port, both dry and liquid waste can be handled at the full Marpol reception facility, and black and grey water can be offloaded by prior arrangement. There are three tugs, two of 50t-plus bollard pull each and one of 22t. Portland Port UK has its own pilots and pilot boats.

A complimentary shuttle bus service is provided to take passengers from the quay into the local town of Weymouth. For a day call, this service operates from the time the ship docks up until one hour before the ship is due to depart.

The port prides itself on its farewell to passengers, putting on a variety of acts on the quayside and concluding with a three-shot salute from the Nothe Fort Victorian Artillery Brigade. 

There are two scheduled trains per hour between London and Weymouth but chartering a train is also an option. Access by air via London Heathrow is a little over two and half hours drive-time. Alternatively the regional airports at Bournemouth, Southampton, Exeter and Bristol are all within two hours of the port offering domestic and European connections.

When it comes to shore excursions the Jurassic Coast is known for its breathtaking beauty and its incredible historical heritage. Local attractions stretch from Stonehenge to Corfe Castle, from Bovington Tank Museum to Monkey World, with towns such as Bath, Salisbury, Dorchester and Weymouth in between.

Local annual events include the Dorset Knob Throwing & Frome Valley Food Festival, the Lyme Regis Jazz and Blues Festival and the Dorset Food Festival.

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Portland Port lies in the sweep of Weymouth Bay, at the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast, an area renowned for its natural beauty and historical heritage. Other local attractions include two more UNESCO World Heritage sites; Stonehenge and the City of Bath as well as numerous...
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