Sinn Fein wants to be represented on any new body formed with a view to boosting tourism through the Port of Larne.
East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan said he and Cllr James McKeown had met recently with the port authorities and with Larne traders. There appeared to be consensus that a local group should be formed, he added.
“This was Sinn Fein’s idea and we would want to be represented on that body,” said the Assembly member.
“When we met with the harbour management, we asked them to look at their pricing structure to try and increase tourist numbers because it is a fact that it is cheaper to fly from Glasgow, hire a car here and drive to the north coast than it is to bring a car on the ferry.
“With the completion of the A8 link the port will be in a great position and if more tourists do use it, then the traders have identified the need to encourage more people to use Larne as a gateway town, rather than bypass it.
“We have identified the need for the council and into the future the new Mid and East Antrim council to be on board a new body to try to bring all these various strands together.”
Speaking after the meeting, Port of Larne MD Keith Millar told the Times: “We met to discuss the concerns raised recently regarding the Port of Larne.
“It was a successful meeting at which we were able to reiterate P&O Ferries’ firm and long term commitment to the Port of Larne and the ferry service to Scotland.
“We work tirelessly to ensure that both leisure and freight passengers enjoy a first class experience to and from the Port of Larne which is home to the shortest, fastest commercial ferry crossings on the Irish Sea.
“Indeed only last month we launched a new service giving passengers access to a high quality and dependable Wi-Fi connection on board ferries sailing between Larne and Cairnryan.
“At the end of March, the Express, our fast ferry service between Larne and Troon will return to service, offering the fastest route for passengers travelling between Northern Ireland and Scotland. With ports within easy reach of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast the Express service is one of the most convenient routes on the Irish Sea.
“Once again we emphasised the recent investment and improvements P&O Ferries has made to our ships sailing between Larne and Scotland and later this year we will complete our significant investment, in excess of £10 million, to provide a new roll-on/roll-off linkspan at the Port of Cairnryan which will further improve our offer for the long term.
“These investments are clear evidence of P&O Ferries’ commitment to the ferry service between Cairnryan and Larne and to the success of the Port of Larne itself.
“We continue to investigate new commercial opportunities for the Port of Larne and invest significant sums to nurture and grow tourism on both sides of the Irish Sea by working with local tourist boards, developing awareness among consumers and encouraging visitors to travel and enjoy the best that both Scotland and Northern Ireland has to offer.”
“Our commitment to Larne is shared by the Government with its significant investment in the improvements to the A8 road, providing a high quality dual-carriageway link from the Port of Larne into the all-Ireland motorway network.
“We’re confident that these investments coupled with our unwavering commitment will deliver long term success for the Port of Larne,” Mr Millar concluded.