Expert floats plans for Cockenzie site as a major cruise line destination

A BID to transform the site of a coal-powered energy plant into a major port for luxury cruise liners has been revived by a leading maritime expert.

Professor Alf Baird said he was hired by Scottish Power 15 years ago to investigate the case for a £30-million marine terminal to replace

Cockenzie Power Station when it is decommissioned in March 2013.

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Under his proposals, the world’s biggest cruise ship companies could operate out of the East Lothian town, and up to half a million people could pass through the area annually with at least 1000 direct jobs created.

Prof Baird, a professor of maritime business at Edinburgh Napier University, said Cockenzie was the “optimal” site for a port because it has little tidal movement, strong rail links and room for expansion.

Ships are able to dock at Leith, Rosyth and Hound Point, but these locations lack the necessary infrastructure to cater for large cruise liners.

He said: “Even the poorest Caribbean island has a pier for cruise ships. It’s just a pier to handle two, three or four ships and that’s all that’s required.

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“The demand is certainly there. Edinburgh should really be like Copenhagen or Bergen. I certainly would say anywhere between 200 and 500 cruise ship visits a year for a capital city like Edinburgh should not be unexpected.”

Prof Baird said he believed the terminal could “largely” be funded by cruise companies, with some public money injected into the plan to ensure it is delivered. East Lothian Council, he said, could put the scheme out to tender.

Plans for the Cockenzie Marine Terminal were presented to the local authority two months ago, with councillors understood to be meeting ScottishPower – which owns the Cockenzie site – next week.

Councillor Paul McLennan, leader of council’s SNP group, said of the proposal: “Alf had recommended that this could lead to up to 1000 jobs. That, in this sort of economy, would be absolutely massive. It would be the biggest boost the East Lothian community has ever seen.”

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Manuela Calchin, regional director of VisitScotland, welcomed the port plans, saying investment was a “key driver” for tourism growth.

But Cruise Scotland marketing development manager, Gordon Ireland, said Cockenzie was not the ideal location for a major port servicing Edinburgh and would prefer to position such a facility in Leith.

“It’s about 15 miles outside the city centre,” he said. “To create the facility I expect would rely on huge amounts of investment and infrastructure and if you’re going to spend that amount of money, you’d be better spending it in Leith.”