A big announcement was made Monday in the port of Sydney, as funding was announced for a second cruise ship berth to be built in Sydney harbour.

Work on the project will begin immediately, but the economic impact will be felt for years to come.

“I got up this morning and thought it was Christmas morning. I saw two ships sailing in and both of them got to the berth,” said CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke.

Much to the delight of a packed room at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion in Sydney, a second cruise ship berth for the nearby harbour is now a reality.

“It allows us to sustain the industry, which is the current message we’ve been delivering all along and grow the cruise lines, our customers that come into port have ships that are larger size,” said Sydney Ports marketing manager Bernadette MacNeil.

The $20 million project will be equally funded by the three levels of government. This empty lot will be transformed into the 287-metre berth, allowing bigger ships like the Queen Mary II to dock. Larger capacity ships and more ships and visitors to the island is good news for downtown businesses and the local economy.

“I’d love to say we will have double the business. I’ll be optimistic and say that we will probably do 60%-70% better,” said business owner Bruce Meloney.

Tourism numbers in Nova Scotia hit record highs in 2016. Premier Stephen McNeil credits Cape Breton for part of that success.

“We had the largest growth in tourism in the province’s history, and as we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday this coming year, I believe we will top that again, and our crown jewel when it comes to tourism is Cape Breton Island,” said McNeil.

More than 82,000 cruise ship passengers visited Sydney just last year, translating into $22.9 million in economic spin-offs to the region. Engineering and construction work for this project is expected to take up to 18 months to complete.

“This is a community accomplishment, everybody owns this. It isn’t one level of government or politician, it is you the people and that is because today your voice was heard, success has been achieved, and our future is strong and solid,” says Mayor Cecil Clarke.

As part of the project, there will also be upgrades to the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion, all to attract major cruise operators along the New England-Quebec corridor.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.