Portsmouth International Port's new £9m linkspan has been officially opened by Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani MP.
The linkspan, which is best described as a drawbridge to get cars and lorries on and off of ferries, will help the port manage the 900,000 vehicle movements that travel through it each year.
The new piece of infrastructure is the first step in a £20m investment programme to ensure Portsmouth maintains its position as the UK's largest and most successful municipal port, with improvements set for cruise, freight and ferries.
Portsmouth is the second-largest cross-channel port and offers the most routes to northern Europe of any UK port.
With 95 per cent of UK trade travelling by sea the investment in the new linkspan has national significance, while locally it is vital for Portsmouth International Port's operation as a fast-moving, high-turnover site with most freight and passengers arriving and departing within half an hour.
The UK government’s Shipping Minister, Nusrat Ghani MP, said:
"The new linkspan represents a significant investment in Portsmouth International Port's facilities and can help it build on its current successes.
“As a country 95 per cent of our trade goes through ports so it is vital they have the proper infrastructure to support this.
“I am delighted to have opened the linkspan and had the opportunity to learn more about what Portsmouth offers as a port and its big ambitions for the future."
The linkspan project received in excess of £500,000 in funding from the Interreg 2 Seas programme 2014-2020, which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, with the rest of the £9m provided by Portsmouth City Council which owns the port.
Council Leader Cllr Gerald Vernon Jackson said:
"It is fantastic that Nusrat Ghani has visited Portsmouth and seen how important the port is. As well as providing jobs and supporting the local economy the port also generates income to support council services. The new linkspan helps ensure the port can continue to operate with such a quick turnaround for passengers and cargo and maintain its position as the most successful municipal port in the country."
Brittany Ferries vessels will be the main users of the new linkspan following last year's agreement of a multi-million pound 10-year extension of the company's Portsmouth base.
Brittany Ferries CEO, Christophe Mathieu, said:
“Portsmouth International Port is Brittany Ferries’ international hub, serving four destinations in France and two in northern Spain, so we welcome the significant investment that has been made in this new linkspan.
“It will bolster further the excellent relationship between our two organisations and complement the investment we are making in three new ships, all of which will be based in Portsmouth.”