On 20th August, 2023, after 18 months of construction, the UK port of Portsmouth welcomed guests from Saga’s cruise ship, ‘Spirit of Discovery’.
They were the first to experience the port’s net carbon neutral terminal extension, made possible through £11.25 mill of Levelling Up funding awarded to transform the city’s visitor economy.
Environmental engineering was at the forefront of the development plans, resulting in the port becoming the first in the UK to use seawater to heat and cool the building. Other environmental features included wind and solar technology, and internal and external living walls to help purify the air.
These elements combined meant that the building generates more energy than it consumes, eventually moving from net carbon neutral to becoming carbon positive.
The new terminal was built to accommodate a growth in the number of cruise ships calling at the port, which is expected to rise to over 100 calls in 2024. A forecast increase in cruise and ferry customers could mean an additional 250,000 passengers per year.
Following a major berth extension, coupled with the new terminal, the port can now handle ships up to 300 m in length and their associated passenger capacity. The new terminal can also act as a second departure gate for ferry passengers, giving more flexibility to Portsmouth’s facilities.
The design features a sky garden, which is a public viewing area to watch the activity across the port, a walkway between the existing terminal and an exclusive lounge area for passengers.
Portsmouth appeals to the small to medium sized, boutique, luxury and expedition cruise and ferry market, and the terminal has been designed to reflect this experience.
Mike Sellers, Portsmouth International Port’s Director, said: “This terminal transformation follows a number of significant infrastructure projects to position Portsmouth, as not only one of the UK’s leading ports, but a global one too.
“From the start of this development we were determined to retain our environmental values, however we have now exceeded our ambitions and the new terminal extension with its sophisticated engineering is on track to generate more energy than it uses.
“Our master plan has focused efforts towards a sustainable future that aims to be the first carbon neutral port by 2030, we’re able to do this by working alongside innovative industries and partners who share our vision.
“In 18 months we now boast an inspiring terminal extension, ready to handle a forecast increase in trade and second departure gate for ferry passengers. I’d like to thank everyone involved for their determination to have this ready for our first call from our customer Saga cruises this weekend,” he said.
Portsmouth’s port was part of a successful £20 mill bid called Transforming the Visitor Economy, which also included funding for a Lido and the creation of the UK’s longest urban park ‘Linear Park’ in the north of the city.
The aim of the funding is to boost the local and regional economy, as each cruise ship call having the potential to bring £1.5 mill into the city through port charges, passenger and crew spend on local goods, and services, such as hotels and attractions, and also supplies to the ship.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Cabinet Member responsible for the port said: “This is a landmark moment for the city and puts Portsmouth on the international map for its ambitions to grow the visitor experience.
“Portsmouth lends itself ideally as a cruise port, with wonderful heritage assets and a spectacular waterfront for arrivals and departures. This new terminal extension is hoped to kick start further investment in the city, from hotel capacity to an increase in tourism spending.
“As the UK’s most successful local authority owned port, we’re building on our strong partnerships with long-term customers, such as Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries, who share our values and ethos. Likewise, we have been fortunate to see a variety of new cruise ships visit Portsmouth for the first time, as well as repeat calls from major brands.
“The port is integral to Portsmouth and supports our ambitions to become a leading marine and maritime city, providing opportunities for residents and high quality experiences for visitors,” he said.
Nigel Blanks, Saga Cruises CEO, added: “We were delighted to have played a part in this historic moment for Portsmouth Port as the first cruise operator to welcome our guests through the new terminal.
“The quality of the building and the attention to detail that has gone into its development really are second to none, and our guests thoroughly enjoyed the new arrival experience,” he said.
The installation of solar and battery systems at Portsmouth’s port, mentioned above, is now fully operational.
Managed by the in-house energy services and building services teams of Portsmouth City Council, installed by Custom Solar, assisted by the port’s engineers, the project began with installing roof-mounted solar panels across several buildings, large battery storage, and the first solar canopies erected at a UK port.
The last piece of the jigsaw was fitted in July, 2023, where an upgraded connection to the national grid allowed the full potential of the 1.2 MW peak system to be realised.
Comprising of 2,660 solar panels, this system provides 35% of the site’s electricity.
It is complimented with an onsite battery with a capacity of 1.3 MW/h, which can power a typical home for four months. It captures renewable energy, which would otherwise be exported to the local electricity network, and redirects it to the port’s buildings when required.
In addition, Andrew Williamson was promoted to become the new head of cruise and ferry at Portsmouth International Port.
His previous role as passenger operations manager has made this a natural progression into a more strategic overview of cruise and ferry, the port said.