Northern Ireland

Portrush: Harbour 'should be used for cruise ships'

A Silver Cloud cruise liner off the Causeway coast
Image caption Some cruise ships booked to visit Portrush have not been able to land

Northern Ireland's Causeway coast is becoming a popular spot for smaller cruise ships, with over 1,500 tourists landing at ports in the area in 2018.

Portrush has attracted the largest number of liners in the past two years.

However, more than a third of ships booked to visit the town in 2017 and 2018 could not get their passengers ashore because of poor sea conditions.

There is now a push for a disused harbour to be brought back into use to solve the problem.

The Portrush Building Preservation Trust has called on the council to rejuvenate the harbour at Portandhu on the more sheltered eastern side of Portrush.

'Difficult to land'

Jim Carrigy from the group said its regeneration would help to attract more of the growing small cruise ship trade to the town.

Image caption Portandhu Harbour sits at the sheltered eastern side of Portrush

"The big problem we have with the old harbour - the existing harbour - is that ships and boats find it very difficult to land because of tides and waves," he said.

"This is an ideal location - it's much more sheltered in the Skerries and therefore it's much easier for boats to disembark and land safely on this side of the harbour."

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council is consulting on plans to convert a 100-year-old lifeboat station at Portandhu harbour into a restaurant.

But the Trust said it should be retained as a community facility to support the development of the harbour.

John McNally, the secretary of the Preservation Trust, said the council's plans are evidence of a lack of commitment to the harbour's regeneration.

"We have contacted local politicians and councillors and asked them are they aware of this and are they aware that it's contrary to the Landsdowne masterplan, to the council's own strategic vision," he said.

Image caption The council is not committed to redeveloping the harbour, claims John McNally

"The idea of it is that, ultimately, when the harbour is reopened, when the harbour is serving cruise trade... that the building will have changing facilities, it will have a meeting room, downstairs it will have a maritime heritage section.

"We're promoting the conversion of the shelter, we're promoting the opening of Portandhu harbour for boating."

'Stands on its own'

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor John Finlay said the regeneration of the disused harbour is not dependent on the future availability of the lifeboat shelter.

"I understand at the minute there's a planning application to do with the lifeboat shelter - now that planning application stands on its own and can't be considered with this other thing.

"The application, whether it be approved or not approved, will be determined by whether it meets the planning criteria or not, not by anything to do with this project.

"I think it stands on its own, this project.

"We don't necessarily need the lifeboat shelter - if it can be incorporated in that's fine - but it stands on its own."

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said its officers are exploring the potential to upgrade Portandhu harbour.