ELLESMERE PORT could enjoy a maritime renaissance as part of a £500m plan to create 6,000 jobs across Merseyside and Cheshire.

Peel Ports, which owns Manchester Ship Canal, has launched a public consultation on plans to expand its River Mersey dock operations.

According to Peel’s consultation document, Mersey Ports Master Plan: A 20-year Strategy for Growth, trade passing through the Port of Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal is forecast to grow by 70% during the next two decades.

Liverpool handled 32 million tonnes of cargo in 2008, while the Manchester Ship Canal handled seven million. Trade is expected to reach a total of 68.5 million tonnes by 2030, according to forecasts in Peel’s consultation document.

The plan includes the development of in-river quays to handle some of the world’s biggest container vessels, unable to use the Port of Liverpool. The in-river terminal will require the development of adjacent land currently used by the nature reserve, run by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust.

Peel is to consult residents on:

Thursday, July 7 – National Waterways Museum, South Pier Road, Ellesmere Port,

Tuesday July 12 – Eastham Lodge Golf Club, Ferry Road, Eastham.

Peel says its Mersey operations can outpace growth elsewhere in the country as it breaks into new markets such as handling biomass and serving off-shore wind farms, steel and metals, forest products and cars.

The plan also foresees the development of a number of multi-modal inland ports on the Manchester Ship Canal – Port Wirral, Port Bridgewater, Port Ince, Port Warrington and Port Salford.

The firm expects its investment to generate 6,000 new jobs and an additional £1.6bn of economic output in the region by 2020 and a further 1,500 jobs and £3.3bn of output by 2030.