Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 00:11 UK

New harbour rises from river mud

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Inverness Harbour patrol boat and Kessock Bridge (Pic: IHT)
An Inverness Harbour patrol boat and freight vessel close to the Kessock Bridge

Built in part from the dredged up muddy bottom of the River Ness, the Highland capital's new harbour development is just months from officially opening.

Costing 9m and six years in the planning, the expanded and revamped Inverness Harbour could prove to be a huge boon to the city's economy.

It has been proposed to sail produce from the Highland port to the rest of Scotland, England and Europe.

A quay and marina have been constructed for yachts and small cruise ships.

Inverness Harbour Trust chief executive Murdo Macleod hopes that when it comes on stream in the autumn it will bring to an end a question which often vexes him.

Ships have been using Inverness Harbour for 2,000 years
Today's harbour takes regular delivery of fuel for the city's filling stations
It has been estimated new freight facilities will remove the need to take significant amounts cargo and produce to the equivalent of 800,000 lorry miles a year

He said: "A lot of people, including some who live in Inverness, don't know where the harbour is.

"Maybe that's our fault for not pushing it enough in the public domain."

The trust is eager to make the new-look harbour a destination for major maritime events.

This week, Inverness has featured as a stopover for the Round Britain Offshore Powerboat Race.

Mr Macleod said any future races, including a talked of race from Inverness to Stravanger in Norway, could be accommodated in the marina.

He said: "The Muirton Basin, where the powerboats are, is not that big.

"Hopefully after September-October 2008 the new marina will be available to the race and we could have hotels, restaurants, bars and shops around the harbour for them to go to."

A 120-bedroom boutique hotel, seafood restaurant, retail outlets, coffee shops and a visitor centre are planned in a future phase of development.

Inverness Harbour development
The new-look harbour and marina will come on stream this autumn

To get to the present stage, the trust has reclaimed land from the river using mud dredged from its bottom.

Mr Macleod said: "The river is dredged every seven years and the spoil was used for the development, meaning we did not have to buy any.

"The site was just mud until a couple of months ago."

He added: "We are fortunate in being one of the few ports to own a large stretch of foreshore. so we didn't have an issue of having to buy land and it allows us to expand further in the future."

The trust-owned foreshore stretches from the mouth of the River Ness to out under the Kessock road bridge and on to the seaside stadium of Scottish Premier League football club, Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Mr Murdo said: "We are a competitive port. We work 24 hours a day."

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