DUBLIN Port bosses are planning to build a €30m cruise ship terminal to help bring tourists into the heart of the city in a major boost for the capital.
The company wants to build a new terminal capable of holding up to two ships at a time in an effort to grow the number of cruise liners visiting Ireland.
Last year, 85 cruise ships arrived at Dublin Port carrying a total of 130,000 passengers, but they currently dock in an area more suited to cargo ships.
However, the Dublin Port Company plans to open a new facility beside the East-Link Bridge by 2015.
This would help boost the business which is worth about €50m a year to the local economy.
Only a 'handful' of ships currently visited Ireland, cruise operators said last night, adding that the development would help grow business here.
"There is an increase in cruise bookings with more queries coming in," Claudia Pabeschitz from Cruise Holidays said.
"It's not just for a certain age group, and it's a lot more affordable.
"Ships are being upgraded constantly, they're adding facilities all the time, and when you compare the price of the cruise with a sun holiday, it really is attractive," she said.
The proposed terminal will be located on the north quays, near the O2 venue and the Point Village.
The location has been chosen because it is within easy reach of the Luas Red Line terminus, allowing passengers to travel quickly into the city centre to shops, restaurants and local attractions.
The Port Company has linked with the city council and Dublin Chamber of Commerce to form Cruise Dublin, which will work with industry to develop a suitable facility.
A study outlining the options will be completed later this year.
"The formation of Cruise Dublin will maximise the potential of cruise tourism, which is currently worth an estimated €50m," said chamber spokesman Aebhric McGibney.
"The new facility will give passengers and crew ease of access to Dublin city centre which will bring a welcome boost to businesses and retailers in the capital."
The ambitious plans are contained in the overall Dublin Port master plan 2012-2040, published yesterday.
It will cost more than €600m to implement, and will be financed from the company's own resources.
It involves an investment of €110m in the first five years, and if implemented in full will double capacity and allow the Port to handle 60 million tonnes of goods per year.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said it was a comprehensive plan for the development of "a vital part of our national infrastructure".
However, local residents have expressed concern about noise levels at the port, with a small group protesting yesterday.