The European Investment Bank is to provide nearly 50% of the finance for construction of the eagerly awaited in-river container terminal at the Port of Liverpool.
The £305m project, called Liverpool 2, is currently being tendered with a view to construction starting in 2013 on a two-year build programme.
The post-Panamax terminal – for ships wider than the original Panama Canal – will be capable of handling ships carrying 13,500 containers, compared to the current limit of 3,500 in Liverpool.
The new terminal has been mooted for several years and is seen as key to the economic growth of Liverpool city region, underpinning logistics, manufacturing and international trade particularly with China.
Gary Hodgson, managing director of the Port of Liverpool, said: "This positive news is another sign of confidence in what will be a transformational project for the business and a major investment in the North West region.
"Funding for Liverpool 2 will come from several sources and the announcement from the EIB regarding its support represents a significant first step in the financing programme. We are working closely with other parties and will make further announcements in due course."
Carole Crosby, interim chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, said: "The Port of Liverpool serves as a key national and regional maritime gateway and is also a crucial node in the wider system of European ports. Ensuring the availability of future capacity here supports the low carbon growth aspirations not just of the City's businesses but also of public policy at the local, national and the European levels. We are now calling on relevant authorities at all political levels to expedite port access in preparation for the higher freight volume, jobs and investment that this programme will generate."
Geoff Muirhead, chairman of the Atlantic Gateway, a network of major developments along the Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal, said: "News of approval from the EIB of £150m loan for Liverpool 2 at Port Seaforth is great news for the North West of England generally and Liverpool in particular. This follows hard on the heels of the Governments full approval for the construction of the Northern Hub Rail Improvement Project. These two schemes are part of the Atlantic Gateway Programme and mark a very successful start to the campaign designed to lever massive economic benefit and jobs across the whole of the North West of England."
The EIB also underwrote the Jessica development finance vehicle in the North West, contributes to the North West Fund venture capital programme, and last year agreed a £500m 30-year loan for the Metrolink tram system in Greater Manchester.