Business as usual as port prepares for arrival of refugees

Aerial picture of Portland Port in Dorset

Bosses at a Dorset port say it is business as usual despite the imminent arrival of floating refugee centre.

News that a barge which will house up to immigrants will be moored at Portland Port led to national headlines.

But the port says it is business as usual as it prepares for the summer months. It has already welcomed its first cruise call of the year and its busy programme will operate as normal over the coming season with the next visits due later this month.

Final work is also being carried out on a new berth development under major growth plans for the business.

It comes as preparations continue with the Home Office and local agencies for the arrival of an accommodation barge for refugees.

Portland Port employs 53 people and has a number of tenants, including cargo businesses, which provide jobs for more than 250 people.

Its cruise business contributes an estimated £10m to the local economy annually.

Bill Reeves, chief executive of Portland Port, said: “Business on the port continues to operate as usual, and indeed grow, including our cruise programme.

“The next cruise calls are due later this month and will operate as normal throughout the season.

“Cruise lines are used to operating in ports where a variety of other activities are also taking place, whether that is cargo operations, ship yards or accommodation barges.

“The reason they visit Portland is for their guests to experience the numerous attractions in the local area, further afield in Dorset and beyond.

“The port remains open for business, our customers remain busy and we are looking to bring our new berth development into operation in the next few weeks.”

Bill added: “Preparations for the arrival of the accommodation barge for refugees is continuing.

“We have listened to concerns and are keen to ensure that the community is kept updated while we work with the Home Office and local agencies to minimise the impact and maximise the benefits of the barge for the area and local economy.

“We are keen to ensure that only those people considered suitable after passing strict checks are able to reside on the accommodation facility at Portland.”

There will be investment to support the barge, ensure the essential needs of its occupants are met and for it become as self-sufficient as possible.

Portland Port is aiming for close co-operation with local agencies, including the health, welfare and emergency services, and hopes to work closely with local community and voluntary groups.

The barge called the Bibby Stockholm, will accommodate about 500 people whilst their asylum claims are processed.

It will provide basic and functional accommodation, and healthcare provision, catering facilities and 24/7 security will be in place on board.

It is due to be operational for 18 months initially and will stay berthed in the port during that time.

Portland Port has operated on a commercial basis since 1996. It has a number of commercial tenants and provides maritime and marine related services.

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