Page last updated at 11:52 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 12:52 UK

'Princess' christens 1km berth

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Natasha Sayee explores the Crown Princess cruise ship

A massive superliner has christened Ireland's longest deep-water berth.

Belfast Harbour Commissioners have spent £10m on upgrading Stormont Wharf to a length of 1,040m, about four times the length of the Titanic.

Princess Cruises' superliner Crown Princess docked at the port on Tuesday with more than 3,100 passengers as part of a 12-night British Isles cruise.

This year almost 40 vessels carrying 60,000 passengers and crew berth at Belfast Harbour.

Many passengers will use the city as a starting point for trips to popular Northern Ireland tourist spots. It is estimated that cruise calls are worth £15m annually to the local economy.

The new wharf will also be used to accommodate the growing trend for ever larger freight vessels which can deliver up to 40,000 tonnes of cargo.

The upgrade, which involved building an additional 250m of quayside, will allow four deep-water vessels to berth simultaneously.

The new quay at Stormont Wharf was officially opened by the DRD Minister, Conor Murphy.

"Belfast is one of the island's key maritime gateways and the new extension at Stormont Wharf will help ensure that it maintains and builds upon that position," the minister said.

Len O'Hagan, Chairman of Belfast Harbour Commissioners said it was "another piece in the jigsaw of Belfast Harbour's ongoing investment plans".

"In the past two years we have completed or started new projects with a value of £60m and in the next 10-15 years our aim is to roll-out new quays, terminals and warehouses to ensure that Belfast Harbour offers its users and the wider economy the best facilities possible," he said.

Pieter van der Schee, head of brand marketing, Princess Cruises, said cruises around the British Isles were becoming more popular.

"With over 12,000 miles of dramatic coastline steeped in history, outstanding beauty and culture, it's no surprise that cruising around Britain is becoming an increasingly popular choice," he said.

"It's estimated that the UK cruise sector creates over 49,000 jobs nationwide."



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