CRUISE ships with up to 4,000 passengers could be accommodated at the former Cockenzie Power Station site if it was turned into a port, experts have said.

A report into the potential for the site to be turned into a cruise terminal has said it could be converted at “relatively low cost” to provide berths for ships of up to 350 metres in length.

And it estimates that over the 25 years it would take to repay the cost of creating the port between £964million to £1.2billion in revenue would be brought into the economy by crews and passengers.

The council has now agreed to pursue the potential with the Scottish Government after their emergency recess group met to approve council officials request to “engage with the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and senior civil servants seeking clarity regarding the potential for development of cruise and port-related infrastructure at Cockenzie".

A summary of the technical report was presented to the group and says the consultant considered the site at Cockenzie a viable option.

The group, which is made up of elected councillors from each party, was told the consultants found that "it  is only 12 miles from Edinburgh on the south shore of the Forth and offers the following advantages: it is a brownfield site with an existing pier; in access terms there are no constraints on vessel length or width; adequate water depth is available, subject to engineering works; tidal impacts are relatively small and 24hr access could be possible; it could provide suitably protected berths close to the open sea; it presents an opportunity to develop a cruise terminal at relatively low cost using simple piers.”

And it adds: “These advantages suggest that a greater number of calls, including modern and future vessels up to 350m in length carrying 3,000 to 4,000 passengers, could be generated at the site as a transit or turnaround facility.”

The report was commissioned by the council in February last year with a budget of £25,000.

Prestonpans Community Council has been a vocal supporter of the use of the former power station site, which the council owns, as a cruise terminal or port.

However neighbouring Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council has spoken out against the proposal instead pushing the council to adopt its own Cockenzie Masterplan – a visionary document that was drawn up for the entire Cockenzie site and warned a port would be too expensive.

The new report estimates that it could cost between £50million and £110million depending on whether a new pier was built and the type of port it is.

Two options presented are a transit port where ships stay for one or two days and passengers disembark to visit local areas which would require five acres of land for the ground facilities, or a turnaround port where passengers start or finish the journey so all passengers change and supplies are loaded, which would require 20 acres of land.

And it looks at eight options for berthing cruise ships which it estimates will only visit one at a time, with seven involving anew pier and one looking at a ship berthing off the sea wall.

Councillor John McMillan, cabinet spokesperson for economic development and tourism, said: “The former Cockenzie Power Station site provides a tremendous prospect for growth of the local economy and for providing new employment opportunities for both current and future generations.

"It’s important that careful consideration is made at these initial stages of ideas generation to assess the costs and benefits of a potential development project as well as to take into account global trends that may impact on economic development including climate change and lessons learned from the covid-19 pandemic.

"“Advantages of the Cockenzie site include having adequate water depth relatively close to shore that can accommodate the size of cruise vessels anticipated coming into the Firth of Forth and the opportunity to create a purpose-built facility not currently available elsewhere within the south east Scotland coastal inlets. However we must also weigh up the costs required to establish such a facility and the potential income and employment benefits for East Lothian.”