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The Minerva docks at Chatham Docks, in Gillingham for the day as tourists visit the area

By Lynn Cox

A cruise ship docked at Chatham Docks for the first time in five years earlier this morning.

The Minerva, which is carrying 340 passengers, is on its way around the British Isles on a 15 night cruise which started in Portsmouth.

Its arrival, is part of Peel Ports’ plans to attract more cruise passengers to the River Medway over the next year.

The Minerva in Chatham Dock this morning.
The Minerva in Chatham Dock this morning.

The maritime company manage the docks and the ship arrived in Medway this morning at about 6.30am.

It will stop in Chatham today and then heads up the east coast calling at Edinburgh, Invergordon, Scrabster, Stornoway, Oban, Belfast, Cardiff, Isles of Scilly and Sark.

Video: The Minerva docks in Chatham

Operated by Swan Hellenic, The Minerva is providing a gateway for tourists keen to explore the area and ten coaches will take passengers on excursions to places of interest in Kent.

The last cruise ship to call at Chatham was Fred Olsen’s Black Prince in 2009 as part of a trip which visited Chatham’s Historic Dockyard.

The Minerva in Chatham Dock this morning
The Minerva in Chatham Dock this morning
The Minerva in Chatham Dock.
The Minerva in Chatham Dock.

The ships arrival will pave the way for the arrival of a second vessel the Hebridean Princess, in August.

Peel Ports and its team at Chatham has been working closely with UK Cruise Agents Denholm-Willhemsen since January 2014, to encourage more cruise ships to call at here.

As a whole the cruise industry contributes around £2.5billion to the UK economy every year.

Industry surveys conservatively estimate that each individual passenger contributes £80 to the local economy.

The Minerva in Chatham Dock.
The Minerva in Chatham Dock.

Following the visits from Minerva and the Hebridean Princess, Peel Ports will provide a detailed evaluation of their impact on the local economy and area.

Martin Hughes, from Peel Ports, said: “Chatham Docks is historically known for its shipbuilding capabilities, but what people don’t always realise is that it was once also a popular calling point for many UK cruise operators.

“The cruise industry in the UK is going from strength to strength, which is why it is perfect timing for us to look at marketing Chatham as a destination for cruise operators once again.

“We have been working really hard with Denholm-Wilhelmsen over the past few months to look at possible option to facilitate more passenger vessels.

"We are looking at our current facilities and infrastructure at the docks to identify areas of potential development, to help facilitate this cruise revival.

Crew members of The Minerva.
Crew members of The Minerva.

“We look forward to welcoming the Minerva to Chatham and hope she will be the first of many cruise vessels to berth here. I would like to thank the team at Chatham for their hard work in making this possible.”

Peter Knight, Director at Denholm-Wilhelmsen, said: “I am pleased to have been able to work alongside the team at Peel Ports and Chatham Docks to help develop the cruise offering along the River Medway.

“As UK Port Agents, we are always looking for new opportunities for the cruise lines and Chatham presents an exciting prospect for the smaller, niche cruise sector.”

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