WORK is due to begin early next year on an £8million deep water quay at Poole which could result in a massive increase in cruise ships visiting the port.

Jim Stewart, chief executive of Poole Harbour Commissioners revealed at the annual open evening that they had finally received planning permission to do the work after a process that stretched back five or six years.

"We are optimistic we will be able to start construction of the new quay in early 2016," he said.

The South Quay near the second ro-ro berth will be deepened to nine metres and there will be a permanent breakwater to shelter the Port of Poole Marina.

This year had seen an increase in visiting cruise ships with seven or eight visiting the port and they hoped to get 12 in 2016, he said. But the new quay meant they would be able to receive ships of up to 1,000 passengers.

"Gradually we have seen an increase in traffic," he said. "There is a good chance we could see up to maybe 40-50 cruise ships a year with the construction of that deeper quay."

It would also mean that luxury Sunseeker yachts, built in Poole, could be exported from the port, instead of having to be taken to Southampton, which the company had expressed an interest in doing, he said.

Some bulk cargo customers planned to relocate to Poole and the port could also do business with a small number of short sea containers.

"The cost is approximately £8m which is a big investment for Poole Harbour Commissioners," he said. "We see it as critical if we want to grow the port and get a bigger variety of customers coming to Poole Harbour in the future."

Also part of the Port Master Plan, work has started re-piling the town quay. The £2m investment includes raising the level by half-a-metre.

"This is an exciting stage in the development of the port," added Mr Stewart.