A contract for the first section of the work – underpinning of the north quay – was signed by the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority and McLaughlin and Harvey of Belfast.
Mr Sean Hall, chairman of the authority, explained that it has taken seven years to get the programme underway because of various investigations and feasibilities studies which had to be carried out.
“Once we had found out expansion on this scale was possible, we wanted to negotiate with the government for the finance,” he added.
Part of the finance - £1.4 million – had been obtained from the European Regional Development Fund.
The expansion programme, which was expected to last about four years, was to include an additional harbour basin together with a new slipway, fish market, ice plant and would make Portavogie one of the most modern fishing harbours in Ireland.
Mr Hall said that there was a great need for harbour expansion at Portavogie due to the significant increase in the fishing fleet since 1966.
“The increase in fleet took place for two reasons – the Department of Agriculture increased the grants for boats and prawn fishing became a very important part of the industry,” said Mr Hall.
The last major development in Portavogie was completed in 1955 at a cost of £220,000. Since then the fleet had increased from 22 to 57 trawlers and landings had increased from less than £50,000 a year in 1955 to almost £1 million by 1978.