THE first sailing of the biggest ferry to dock at Poole Port has proved a success.

LD Lines’ ferry Norman Asturias sailed from Poole for Santander in northern Spain on Tuesday carrying both freight and passengers and will return for a second voyage on Saturday.

The ship can carry up to 500 passengers, 200 cars or 110 freight vehicles and the two sailings a week provide a mini-cruise with a crossing time of 26 hours. The ship has 120 cabins, bar, restaurant, shop, cinema and children’s entertainment area.

“She’s a big vessel,” said Jim Stewart, chief executive of Poole Harbour Commissioners. “The biggest ferry we have had into Poole. There were absolutely no problems at all.”

A Poole pilot flew out to Spain to travel back on the ferry and familiarise himself with getting the large vessel through the harbour entrance and into the port.

With the loss of Brittany Ferries’ freight carrying Cotentin at the end of September, the new route has come at the right time to help secure jobs on the quays.

“Brittany Ferries has been fantastic customers for the port as well,” said Mr Stewart. “They are very important to us. It’s nice to get a new ferry company alongside.”

With Channel Seaways, the liner service to the Channel Islands, also picking up new work and running three sailings a week instead of two, he said matters were improving.

“Things have picked up a lot in terms of volumes,” said Mr Stewart. “Bulk volumes have picked up on the construction side, there are a lot of bricks and timber coming in.”

And the port has also had its best season for cruise ships with five sailing into the harbour this year.

“We are hoping to double that next year. We are seeing a lot more interest in Poole as a cruise ship destination. That’s great news,” he said.