A new £55m cruise terminal is set to open in the port of Southampton, despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the travel industry.
The facility being built will let suitably-equipped ships plug in to a local power supply while in port, rather than using onboard generators.
Much of the cruise industry worldwide has been shut down since March.
Associated British Ports (ABP) said its opening – sometime next year – would be a “vote of confidence” in the port.
Built in partnership with MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, it will be the port’s fifth terminal for cruise passengers.
It received a grant of £8m from the Government’s Getting Building Fund.
Environmental campaigners have previously criticised the cruise industry for contributing to the problem of air pollution.
The ships have huge power demands, and to power on-board facilities such as lights and water treatment plants, they tend to run their engines 24/7 while moored up in ports such as Southampton.
ABP said the new terminal would have “Shore Power connectivity” allowing ships with the right onboard technology to “plug-in” while in port.
Alastair Welch, director of ABP Southampton, said: “We’re very pleased to announce this major advance in our cruise infrastructure at the port, delivering further access to Southampton for the industry, whilst supporting our commitment to accelerate improvements in local air quality.”
No date has been given for its opening which ABP said would be in time for the “2021 cruise season”.
Robert Courts MP, Minister for Maritime at the Department for Transport, said: “As we continue to support the cruise sector in its restart and recovery, it’s great to see government funding being used to help deliver better services for passengers.
“This next-generation facility also showcases to ports around the world how we’re pioneering the use of green technology.”
Cruise ship operator Carnival shed 450 jobs from its offices in Southampton earlier this year.
Some companies have made a limited return since voyages were suspended when the pandemic hit, though Cunard and P&O are not due to resume sailing until spring 2021.
By Paul Clifton, transport correspondent, BBC South
This is a very bold statement about the future of cruising given that Southampton hasn’t seen a single cruise passenger since last Spring.
The industry expects a return to normality to take several years.
But this is an investment for the long-term. Before the pandemic, the average age of cruise passengers was getting younger, with families increasingly choosing this type of holiday.
Southampton is banking on it not only recovering, but growing far into the future.
The plug-in shore-side power for Southampton is also a big deal – a UK first.
Only a handful of ports offer it worldwide, as cruise ships consume a huge amount of power; enough to put a strain on the surrounding area.
Most new cruise ships are being equipped with the ability to plug in, turning off their huge engines in port to reduce pollution.