IT began life as a 16th century dockyard for some of Europe’s mightiest sailing vessels – today it is better known as one of the Capital’s sleepiest urban villages.
Now Newhaven could be about to see the return of some of the world’s largest ships after maritime giant Forth Ports unveiled plans for a new cruise liner terminal in a bid to attract the “super liners” of the future.
Millions of pounds are set to be ploughed in as the firm bids to turn the tiny fishing village into a magnet for cruise giants including Cunard, P&O and Royal Caribbean.
Plans for dredging, seabed surveys and reviews of local infrastructure are all well advanced as part of a “significant” investment in the project, company officials have confirmed.
Newhaven has emerged as the prime candidate for a cruise liner port, with experts stressing that the lock entrance at Leith, Rosyth’s proximity to the Forth bridges and South Queensferry’s distance from the city centre meant they were not suitable for accommodating the next generation of cruise liner.
Under new proposals, ships would anchor around 1.5 miles offshore, with passengers brought to Newhaven Harbour on tender vessels.
Tourism experts today said quality shops, restaurants and transport connections would all have to be provided as part of any viable port plan, potentially adding millions to the £6.5m thought to have been generated across the city’s ports last year.
As well as hosting ocean-going vessels stopping in Edinburgh, Newhaven could also become a departure port for “turnaround” ships taking domestic travellers to overseas destinations.
This would mean construction of customs, security and luggage handling facilities catering for thousands of incoming and outgoing passengers every year.
Forth Ports bosses have indicated the initial investment is likely to run to hundreds of thousands of pounds, but experts said the total value of long-term public and private sector investment would increase to millions.
A spokeswoman for Forth Ports said: “We have had a good level of interest from the cruise industry for this new location due to its close proximity to the internationally appealing city of Edinburgh.
“We are currently working with Edinburgh City Council on the potential opportunities at Newhaven and Forth Ports is looking to significantly invest in this project.”
The plans mark a revolution for Newhaven, which has a maritime history stretching back to the 1500s when the Great Michael, Scotland’s most iconic ship, was launched there.
Forth Ports bosses said plans came after a successful trial last year which saw the Queen Victoria liner anchor next to the village before nearly 2000 passengers were tendered ashore.
Professor Joe Goldblatt, executive director of the international centre for the study of planned events at Queen Margaret University, said the total investment was likely to run to tens of millions of pounds, adding that cruise passengers would expect ports to offer high-end shopping, eating out and leisure opportunities.
He said: “It’s not unusual to spend anywhere from tens of millions to hundreds of millions to create a proper cruise port destination. The cost of this will be determined by the economy of each destination. In Edinburgh, land is quite expensive compared to other destinations. Constructions costs could be high as well.”
Councillor Frank Ross, the city’s economy leader, hailed the plans and said they were aimed at ensuring the Capital is able to “maximise” the impact of thousands of additional visitors on its economy.
OYSTER PORT WITH A ROYAL HERITAGE
NEWHAVEN is one of Scotland’s most ancient ports, with a history stretching back to 1504.
Founded by James IV for the construction of much larger ships than was then possible at Leith, it originally provided housing for an international workforce, including French, Dutch and Flemish labourers, together with the Chapel of St Mary and St James, of which only the west gable remains today.
The most famous ship built there was the Great Michael, the largest of its time, which was launched in 1511.
Newhaven was also known as Scotland’s premier oyster port from 1572 until 1890, when they became scarce due to overworking.
It retains some of the characteristics of a fishing port, as well as a reputation for seafood restaurants.