Stornoway Port Authority is seeking designers for its plans for a deep water port as part of its 20-year master plan.
The works will include land remodelling, dredging, land reclamation, a new quay, finger pier and linkspan and associated civil engineering works.
The deep-water port proposal is crucial to accelerate local growth in the cruise business, by providing improved facilities for larger ships that cannot currently berth alongside.
Stornoway welcomed 43 cruise ships in 2017, but attracts relatively few large vessels, as those over 156m in length are unable to berth alongside, and passengers are brought ashore by small tender.
To maintain and grow the cruise market, Stornoway needs a facility for berthing cruise ships up to 350m long. This would attract an additional 35-40 vessels a year, creating business opportunities throughout the island as visitor numbers entering through the port continue to increase.
Stornoway Port Authority chief executive Alex Macleod said: “The tendering of the design contract marks a significant date for the Port Authority and the Hebrides.
“This is a hugely exciting opportunity which will have transformational effects on the local economy and beyond.
“Whilst the work on the design continues, we will work with a number of agencies, including the Scottish Government, to investigate and source innovative ways to fund the project.”
This first Phase of the deep water port will also allow for the development of subsequent phases in the future, including berthing and unloading facilities for renewable energy components; development land for a range of uses, including industrial, storage and decommissioning activities; and a new link road along the foreshore to Arnish fabrication yard.
The design is due to be completed by May next year and it is hoped construction work can start by the end of 2019, with a target for completion by June 2021.