JOURNEY times between Northern Ireland and Scotland will be cut by Belfast's new Stena Line ferry terminal which is being built at a cost of £35 million.
The three-storey building will include a restaurant, lounges, a viewing gallery and dedicated facilities for HGV drivers and is due to open in time for the summer season next year.
To mark the scale of investment, the company's executive board travelled from its Swedish headquarters to mark the occasion at an event hosted by Belfast Harbour Commissioners.
The port's chairman Len O'Hagan said: "To ensure that those travelling from and to Scotland do so in the quickest time possible, the Port has physically moved itself closer. 80 years ago it began reclaiming part of Belfast Lough with millions of tonnes of stone and sand, creating a site that will allow the relocation of its Belfast operations nearer to Scotland.
"In addition, the Port will also build a new dual carriageway directly linking the new terminal with the M2 at Fortwilliam to provide easy access for drivers and hauliers. This is part of a £140 million investment programme to enhance what is Northern Ireland's primary gateway to the world."
Stena Line's global CEO, Gunnar Blomdahl added: "The Irish Sea is a key part of Stena Line's international business and also one of its strongest growing markets. Together with a new proposed facility in Cairnryan, the new Belfast terminal will reduce travel time by 20 minutes and allow Stena Line to provide additional sailings.
"Despite the impact of low cost airlines and a volatile fuel market, we have continued to grow our business and nowhere is this more evident than on the Irish Sea. I feel that this exciting development will only serve to further enhance our offering in this market."