POOLE Harbour’s £10 million South Quay should be officially opened by Local Growth Minister Jake Berry on Thursday.

Then, just a few weeks afterwards the port will welcome the largest cruise ship to have ever docked in its history.

It is hoped South Quay’s completion, part of Poole Harbour Commissioner’s (PHC) ambitious seven year expansion plan, will facilitate millions of pounds of new business, by bringing bigger cruise ships, bigger commercial vessels, and establishing the port as the UK’s luxury yacht import and export base.

PHC chief executive Jim Stewart, speaking exclusively to the Daily Echo, said the new quay should eventually enable Poole to handle one cruise ship every week.

“Up until now we’ve effectively been handling up to 10 cruise ships a year,” he explained. “In the next 12 months we will be handling 27 ships and the year after more than 40 cruise ships.

“So we will have quadrupled the cruise ship business in that time.”

Each cruise ship guest spends an average of 75 Euros a day in port, so a ship with up to 1,000 passengers - which is what harbour bosses are working to secure - would mean a 75,000 Euro boost for the local economy a day.

In August Poole will witness the docking of the biggest cruise ship in its history, the 185-metre long Astoria which has 550 berths.

“South Quay is very exciting for the port,” said Mr Stewart. “It is a game changer and has moved us into a different category by opening us up to new markets and new customers.

“We expect to see significant growth over the next two or three years, there is huge interest out there in Poole.

“We are talking to all of the cruise companies, and are marketing Poole as the world’s newest cruise berth .”

But it is not just the cruise ship market that is set to benefit from the new 200-metre long South Quay. In a matter of months it is hoped the port will have become the UK’s main base for the import and export of luxury yachts.

Local boatbuilder Sunseeker wants to use the new facility to distribute all of its products, as do several other luxury yacht companies.

Mr Stewart said: “Liners come in and the yachts are loaded, very carefully, onto these ships.

“We are looking to accommodate probably one ship a week in terms of yacht imports and exports.”

There has also been significant interest, Mr Stewart says, from shipping companies bringing in commodities such as steel and grain, boosting the port’s current freight and commercial revenues.

“Shipping companies are investing in bigger ships, which they’ve wanted to bring to Poole.

“Now, we are in a position to be able to handle them.

“We are looking to grow the port by around 25 per cent over the next four or five years. That is the ambition we have.”