INVERCLYDE’s new £20 million cruise ship visitor centre is looking ship-shape after it was officially launched.
The project, led by Inverclyde Council, is part of the £1 billion Glasgow City Region City Deal funded by the Scottish and UK governments (£10.4m), with contributions from Peel Ports (£8m), operators of the existing Greenock Ocean Terminal, and the George Wyllie Foundation via Dunard Fund (£1.7m).
The aim of the development was to increase visitor numbers to 150,000 passengers a year and that has already been surpassed.
The project is expected to provide a £26m boost to the Scottish economy and over 70 jobs have also been created.
The dedicated cruise ship visitor centre features an arrivals/departure hall operated by Peel Ports Clydeport, as well as a museum and art gallery, the Wyllieum, paying tribute to the late, world-famous artist George Wyllie, who worked as a Customs Officer in Greenock and lived for many years in Gourock.
There is also a high-end Scotts restaurant and roof terrace with panoramic views of the River Clyde that has created over 70 jobs.
A new 200-metre floating pontoon was also completed by Peel Ports in partnership with the council as part of the overall project, providing a dedicated cruise ship berth linking to the state-of-the-art new visitor centre.
Provost of Inverclyde, Councillor Drew McKenzie, said: “This is a magnificent venue that Inverclyde can be proud of. Our warm welcome is famous around the world and now we have a first-class venue befitting of that for visitors from near and far to enjoy all-year round, as well as the local community.
“It’s a project that has been a long time in the making but has been delivered through hard work and determination by all involved and really does epitomise partnership working at its best.
“With financial support from the Scottish and UK governments through the Glasgow City Region City Deal and investment from our partners, we can build on the success of Greenock as a major port and grow Inverclyde as a tourist destination and reap all the benefits that come with that for the local area and across the wider city region.
“There’s never been a better time to discover Inverclyde and the many wonderful things we have to offer.”
UK Government Minister for Scotland, Malcolm Offord, said: "The opening of the new Ocean Terminal is the result of the combined efforts of the public and private sector working together, including £5.2m investment from both the UK and Scottish governments - showing the power of working together to deliver for our communities.
"Thousands of visitors from around the globe will step ashore at this new facility in Greenock and receive a proper Scottish welcome combined with a taste of our creativity through the art of George Wyllie.
"This presents a huge opportunity for local businesses, and I am confident that we will see further investment in the town and new jobs being created as a result."
Scottish Government Transport Minister, Fiona Hyslop, said: “Today is a landmark day for Inverclyde and its visitor economy. The £26 million boost to investment produced by thousands of visitors to the Ocean Terminal every year can help transform our supply chain and create more jobs.
“Cruise tourism is an important and growing component of the visitor economy across the country and this impressive new facility, made possible by Scottish Government and partners’ investment through the City Region Deal, can only help boost Inverclyde – and Scotland’s – profile to visitors.
“It gives Inverclyde the chance to play a valuable part in developing our country’s position as a sustainable and responsible cruise destination for the 21st Century.”
The official opening took place on the day Cunard cruise ship Queen Victoria stopped off.
Inverclyde has a historical link with the cruise line as the first Cunard ship and subsequent ships were built in Greenock in the 1800s during the early days of the company and the area has maintained strong links ever since.
Jim McSporran, port director at Peel Ports Clydeport, said: “It’s a really special moment welcoming guests to Greenock Ocean Terminal for our cruise visitor centre opening ceremony.
“The centre itself looks incredible and has been a huge success with the tens of thousands of passengers who have passed through it so far this year.
“We’ve invested significantly with our partners on upgrading our facilities, which we believe take our offerings at the port to the next level.
“We are now looking to build on a record year for cruise liners and continuing to attract and grow those tourist numbers to the terminal in the years ahead.”
Thousands of passengers and crew from around the world have already been enjoying the facilities on their visits to Inverclyde so far this year.
The arrivals and departures hall as well as the Scotts Greenock restaurant are already up and running with the Wyllieum expected to open fully in early January 2024.
The museum shop, however, is now open having welcomed customers for the first time at the official opening of the new terminal building on Friday 25 August 2023.
A full-time member of staff has been employed to run the gift shop.
Michael Dale, Chairman of the Wyllieum, said: “The Wyllieum is delighted to be part of the Ocean Terminal Building designed by award-winning architect Richard Murphy.
“Just like George Wyllie’s work, our galleries, education hub and shop will be inspiring, welcoming, fun, and vibrant cultural spaces. We aim to break boundaries and speak to every age, not only to the local community of Inverclyde but also to our future national and international visitors.
“We look forward to being a significant part of the artistic and cultural offering of this vibrant part of Scotland, working alongside our partners at Inverclyde Council, Scotts Restaurant and Peel Ports as well as our fellow creative organisations.”
The terminal’s Scotts restaurant is operated by leading hospitality company, Buzzworks – a business consistently ranked within The 100 Best Companies to Work For in the UK over recent years.
Kenny Blair, Buzzworks Holdings Managing Director, said: “After several years of planning and hard work, we're proud to open our doors here at Scotts Greenock, bringing both a new and exciting dining experience to the area.
“Not only does the venue fit our ethos of enhancing communities through great hospitality, but it has allowed us to create numerous job opportunities for the local community, filling over 70 full and part time vacancies.
“Throughout the process, our aim was to give Inverclyde a venue that it could be proud of, and through great food and service, alongside such a spectacular setting here in Greenock, we look forward to welcoming guests in this beautiful space for generations to come.”
The £20m investment includes work on the terminal building itself and marine works for the floating pontoon.
The terminal will welcome 89 cruise liners into the Inverclyde town’s new dedicated pontoon across 2023 – a rise of over 25 per cent on last year.
As well as the 150,000-plus passengers, 38,000 crew members are also expected to pass through the port over the course of this year.
The visitor centre was first used by passengers in June this year when one of the world’s largest cruise liners – the 330m-long MSC Virtuosa – berthed at the terminal.
While the facility will be heavily used by passengers and crew throughout the cruise call season, the building will also be open to the public throughout the year with potential for it to be used for events and exhibitions.