AS the area's favourite ship is reopened this week, further details have emerged of how the capital's first cruise liner terminal could make Greenwich 'the gateway to London'.

Preliminary work on the landmark development, approved last summer, is now due to start at Enderby's Wharf in November, with the facility's first phase open 12 to 18 months after that.

West Properties, the developer behind the project promise a 251-room hotel and 770 homes with constuction ending in around five years. The Grade II listed building Enderby House - famous for appearing in Moby Dick - will be refurbished and used as a cafe and information spot.

The ships it will take have capacity for up to 1,600 passengers and, at a maximum of 240m long, dwarf mammoth liner The World which docked off Greenwich last year.

Speaking as the international conference Cruise Europe kicked off in Greenwich, West Properties' planning director James Blakey explained: "It is designed to take the largest ships we can take through the Thames Barrier."

He said: "The reaction from the cruise industry has been tremendous. It was an opportunity they were very keen to grasp."

Greenwich Council director of regeneration John Comber said: "This brings the cruise liner industry right into the heart of the capital.

"It will be the gateway to London."

He added: "In years gone by this river would have been teeming with vehicles. What we'd like to see is that brought back."

Around 40,000 tourists a year will arrive from places like the USA, stopping off at Greenwich and also travelling on to northern Europe, Holland and France.

The first few years will see it take 25 to 30 vessels, moving up to around 100 when fully operational. It is hoped the project will create around 600 jobs.