THE Port of Southampton is getting a £12million upgrade to accommodate more passengers and even bigger ships.

The one-year-long programme will see Ocean Terminal transformed to accommodate a growing demand for cruise ships to dock in the city.

It’s part of a five-year £1billion investment programme in Southampton.

Now port directors and city leaders say the work will further strengthen the port’s position as northern Europe’s leading cruise port.

Working in partnership with Carnival UK, ABP says the project will mean Southampton can become home to the first British vessel to be powered by LNG – or liquefied natural gas.

Iona is currently being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, and is due to be launched in May 2020.

The company ran a competition inviting members of the public to name the new 180,000-ton ship, which led to 30,000 responses.

The vessel will hold 5,200 guests, feature 17 restaurants, including 8 speciality restaurants, and 12 bars.

And she will have 16 whirlpools and four swimming pools, one of which will be part of a glass-covered entertainment venue called SkyDome.

But she will be powered by LNG instead of diesel - making her more environmentally friendly than the current generation of ships.

Iona is the first of two new vessels of this class for P&O Cruises, with the next ship on order to be delivered in 2022.

Leader of Southampton City Council Councillor Chris Hammond welcomed the £12million investment into the port and the move towards less polluting vessels.

Speaking to the Echo he said: “The upgrades to the port are absolutely necessary if we are to stay as a competitive port. This is a good news story. It will benefit the local economy and retains our place as the cruise ship embarkation point. We welcome the investment.”

City opposition leader Cllr Dan Fitzhenry also welcome the investment and said: “It’s great to see our partners investing in the city and choosing it as their home - and using new cleaner fuel and technology.”

ABP Southampton director Alastair Welch, said: “We continually invest in the port to adapt and develop to meet our customers’ growing needs, and we are committed to ensuring that this growth happens in the most environmentally sustainable way.”

Carnival UK VP port and shore operations, Steven Young added: “We are pleased to be working alongside ABP and our port community on this series of improvements.”