THE chief executive of Stornoway Port has detailed his hopes of winning a big uplift in work from the tourism and renewables sectors as a major infrastructure project nears completion.

Construction of a new deep water terminal at the historic port, costing £59 million, is on course to finish before the end of the year, thanks in part to favourable weather over the summer.

It follows the creation of a new marina with 81 berths and the opening of a new MacDuff Shellfish factory under the regeneration of the port’s Goat Island, which required an investment of £12m. That expenditure is already paying its way, with the new factory, a joint project with Clearwater, MacDuff’s Canadian owner, having already established Stornoway as a global hub for exporting langoustines.

READ MORE: Barbie and Oppenheimer help Everyman report record month

The deep water terminal and revival of Goat Island represent major planks of a master plan to future-proof Stornoway Port which was set out in 2017.

The investment has been made possible by a “complex” funding package that has been put together with the support of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Government, and the Scottish Futures Trust.

Speaking to The Herald last week, port boss Alex Macleod said it no exaggeration to say the terminal will be “transformative” for the Western Isle hub.

“It will be transformative,” said Mr Macleod, who was brought up in Stornoway, and became chief executive of the port in 2015 after spells with civil engineering company Lilley Construction in Glasgow and Fletcher Construction in New Zealand.

“I know that word is bandied about quite a lot. But on this particular occasion, and for this particular project, it will be transformational for our economy.

“If you look at other ports like Orkney and Shetland, they have these facilities already and the ports have grown around them and businesses have grown around them. We have not had this sort of opportunity and I think over the next few years a lot of opportunities will arise from what we are doing.”

READ MORE: Scotland's troubled high streets: Dark days lie in store

The main opportunities which will flow from the current investment are in tourism and renewable energy.

Since work began on the new deep water terminal, the ScotWind licensing round has taken place, which has opened up the possibility of Stornoway securing significant work in support of the offshore wind industry.

The auction has seen the Crown Estate lease parts of the seabed around the Scottish coastline for 20 projects, which have attracted the support of major players in the energy sector and raised hopes of local companies playing a meaningful role in their supply chain.

Mr Macleod expects Stornoway Port to offer “bit of everything” in terms of supporting facilities to the ScotWind projects and anticipates that work will begin to flow later this decade, explaining that it is tied into the installation of a 1.8-gigawatt inter-connector needed to transfer energy to the grid.

“That is the big opportunity out there – ScotWind projects,” he said. “We have [Belfast-headquartered] Harland & Wolff’s Arnish fabrication yard within our harbour. That is a major draw. There are currently 120 people employed there doing fabrication work. There will be more employed going forward because they will do specific [work for ScotWind projects].

“On top of that, I think we were the only port put forward as an allocated project partner. We were included in the Magnora (Norwegian offshore wind company) bid as their construction and operations base. For Magnora, the idea is to float in the base and we or someone else will install the tower within the port, then float it out to its position in the sea.

READ MORE: Scotch whisky club reveals ambitions after US and EU breakthroughs

“These things will operate for 25, 30 years, so there will be a service base in the harbour as well. There is a wide variety of bits and pieces to help that whole process from start to finish.”

The new deep-water terminal will also help Stornoway grow in stature as a destination for major cruise liners.

Stornoway already welcomes cruise ships up to a maximum of 156-metre in length. But it is anticipated that the new facility will allow virtually any cruise ship in the world to berth alongside the harbour, which means vessels of around 300-metres in length disgorging as many as 3,000 passengers into the port.

While some may question whether Stornoway has the capacity to handle such huge influxes of tourists, Mr Macleod pointed to a day in 2016 when the Azura cruise ship brought more than 3,000 people to the port in a single day. “It was a successful visit,” he said. “A lot of people went on tours. They were spread out around the island [and there was] a lot of people in town.

“It was a busy successful day, and we didn’t hear any complaints. Going forward, what we are going to have is just more days like that. We will never really have two vessels of that size coming, but we will have more busy days rather than busier days.”

Although there are already businesses on the Western Isles catering for tourists, Mr Macleod said there is a prospect for many more due to the huge rise in the number of visitors who are anticipated.

“I think the island can handle it, but there is still a lot of opportunity for people to develop shore excursions and businesses around it,” he said. “There are people out there who have business ideas, but there aren’t enough tourists just now for these ideas to take off.

“In relation to the cruise industry, they can have a base business here that they will be able to offer to the wider tourist industry as well. It is difficult for them to see that right now. I think it will probably takes us a couple of years to get there. But over the next couple of years, we will see a bigger offer there and people will grasp these opportunities.

“We are working with the other agencies, HIE, Scottish Government, the local authority, VisitScotland, [and] Outer Hebrides Tourism as a group to present these opportunities and help them develop their ideas. I think it is a good idea, but it will take a wee bit of time.”

Stornoway Port directly employs about 30 people, with Mr Macleod noting that its role is primarily focused on facilitating others to do business. But it expects to add to its  headcount as its investment projects come to fruition.

The port recently reshuffled its board. Margaret Ann Macleod, sales director of Harris Tweed Hebrides, was appointed chair, and was joined on the board by Seonag Mackinnon, former director of education and children’s services at Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar.