Highlands & Islands

Challenges to Fort William big cruise ship ambitions

Corran Narrows
Image caption The Corran Narrows is one of the challenges to large cruise ships

Attracting big cruise ships to Fort William could bring huge benefits to the Lochaber economy, a Highland Council committee has heard.

But it also heard that some challenges must be overcome before the town on the shores of Loch Linnhe can be marketed as a destination for large liners.

For the first time, small cruise ships visited the town this year.

But for bigger boats there are issues surrounding the loch's Corran Narrows and insurance and Fort William's pier.

Highland Council has marketed Fort William for many years as a possible cruise ship destination, and welcomed the first vessels to visit earlier this year.

Other towns in the area, such as Invergordon, Portree and Scrabster, have been a stop-off for liners for a number of years.

Minutes from September's meeting of the fishery harbours management board detail challenges to Fort William's bid to attract bigger boats.

The vessels would need to be guided through the Corran Narrows by a pilot boat. Third party insurance cover for that operation could run to £1m.

Mooring the cruise ships outside the narrows and then taking passengers the rest of the way in a tender was ruled out. Tenders must remain in sight of the "mother ship" at all times and this would not be possible on the journey to Fort William due to the distance involved.

The town's pier would also need to be upgraded, the meeting heard.

The committee agreed solutions to the problems should be further examined and discussed.

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