A multi-million pound extension to the Cairnryan ferry terminal has been given the green light.
Stena Line hopes to share facilities with P&O at Cairnryan
It is part of a joint venture between P&O and Stena Line to develop shared port facilities for Irish Sea services.
The go-ahead for the port extension has come from the Scottish Executive through a harbour empowerment order.
It has been granted following a public inquiry into the plans. The move enables Stena Line to move its operations from Stranraer to Cairnryan.
The shared facility lies six miles closer to the mouth of Loch Ryan than the company's old site.
When combined with a relocation of the Belfast terminal, it is hoped about 25 minutes will be cut from sailing times between Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The works programme is expected to get underway immediately - with a target for completion by the end of next year.
Stena Line's route director Alan Gordon said the decision was a "real milestone" for the people of south west Scotland.
"The new port will provide a modern, state-of-the-art facility for the fourth largest tourist gateway and largest ferry port in Scotland," he said.
"This is a huge, long-term commitment by P&O Irish Sea and Stena Line to the south west of Scotland and its people.
"One of the main objectives of the development will be to protect and preserve existing employment in the region."
P&O Irish Sea managing director Terry Cairns said the move was a significant one for the region.
"The combined workforce of both ferry operators make us one of the largest employers in south west Scotland," he said.
"We are delighted that full planning permission has now finally been granted and we can get cracking with the construction phase.
"The new enhanced facility will be the best in Scotland and will give the people of south west Scotland a strong foundation for future prosperity."