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Number of cruise ship passengers setting sail for Belfast up 25%

By John Mulgrew

This year will be Belfast's busiest for cruise ships, with more than 145,000 passengers set to visit - up 25% on 2015.

Belfast Harbour will play host to 81 cruise ships over the next 12 months, carrying passengers from around the world.

The harbour is also in the process of building a new £1m cruise ship terminal.

The delayed project has been earmarked for a site at Airport Road West, planning documents have shown.

It was originally planned to be close to Titanic Belfast, one of the region's top tourist attractions.

A spokesperson for Belfast Harbour said: "In recent years cruise lines operating on western European itineraries have introduced larger and longer vessels which require deeper channels and additional quay space.

"To accommodate these next-generation cruise ships, and the increased popularity of Belfast, Belfast Harbour plans to develop a new cruise berth at D3, near the RSPB nature reserve on the Co Down side of the port.

"This £14m project, developed following positive feedback from cruise line operators and excursion providers, will enhance passengers' experience of Belfast and further support the city's popularity as a cruise destination."

Joe O'Neill, Belfast Harbour's commercial director, told how the port had "almost doubled the number of cruise ships calling into Belfast, which is a major achievement".

It is the "huge popularity of world-class attractions" that has helped bring in visitors from across the world, according to Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Visit Belfast, who added that having the right infrastructure was crucial.

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