IT was whisky galore at Greenock Ocean Terminal as cargo ship operators began transporting a million bottles of our national drink to the far east.

The new freight route is the first direct Scotland-China container service and Greenock has been hailed as the "perfect fit" for the globe-spanning venture.

The giant Allseas Pioneer ship docked at Ocean Terminal shortly after 9.30am on Saturday to take onboard the huge haul.

The service — a partnership between KC Liner Agencies, DKT Allseas and China Xpress — transported imports including textiles, furniture and toys for the Scottish market.

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Its containers were then loaded with tens of thousands of cases of whisky in a boost for the export market, before the ship departed bound for Ningbo.

Jim McSporran, Clydeport director at Peel Ports, said: "It’s great to finally welcome this vital service to Greenock Ocean Terminal.

"Our terminal is the perfect fit for such a global trade connection, and this is again shown by the significant volumes we will be helping ship back to China.

"We believe this partnership will prove to be a hugely positive development for businesses and customers, as well as boosting the wider supply chain, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners on this service in the coming months."

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David Milne, KC Group shipping managing director, said: "We knew China Xpress was a service needed by many sectors, but still, we've been amazed at the level of immediate interest.

"It's been a phenomenal success for KC Group Shipping, but this is just the first of many journeys and we need the support of Scottish importers and exporters to safeguard the long-term future of this new service.

"We'll be toasting the success of more than one million bottles of Scotch whisky being traded from the first vessel alone, and we'll raise a glass to all the other businesses which will also benefit.

"I described this as a game changer for Scotland, and the uptake in the service is certainly proving that case, for Scotland’s furniture, pharmaceuticals, packaging and spirits sectors."

Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe also welcomed the new route.

He said: "The freight side of Greenock Ocean Terminal can often be overshadowed and sometimes forgotten about because of the busy cruise ship schedule.

“But the container shipping side of the terminal has also grown substantially in recent years and the new Glasgow City Region cruise ship visitor centre development, including the dedicated cruise ship pontoon, has created more capacity for both container and passenger vessels to aid the continued growth of both markets and further boost the economy locally, regionally and nationally.

"The decision by KC Shipping to establish this direct link from Greenock to China – the first in Scotland – combined with the visitor centre development and ambitious Clyde Green Freeport bid is a ringing endorsement of Greenock and Inverclyde as an important location for exports, imports and visitors and long may that continue."

Three sailings will take place per month in each direction, calling at Ningbo and the Chinese city of Shenzhen before arriving in Greenock via its "sister" container terminal at the Port of Liverpool.

Peel Ports is a partner in the Clyde Green Freeport bid along with AGS Airports' Glasgow Airport, Mossend International Railfreight Park in North Lanarkshire and a partnership of the Glasgow City Region councils.

The so-called "multimodal initiative" aims to attract major new investment, develop global trading opportunities, create tens of thousands of new jobs, accelerate net-zero objectives agreed at COP26 and 'take the region's world-class innovation economy to the next level'.