The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) announced plans today for a new passenger check-in, screening, and boarding area within the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal that will improve passenger comfort, increase terminal efficiency and position Cruiseport Boston for continued growth.

“These critical upgrades address customer needs and will bolster the popularity of Boston with cruise passengers and cruise lines,” said Thomas J. Kinton, Jr., Massport’s CEO & Executive Director. “Our ability to build on the success of Boston’s cruise business will bring significant economic benefits to the region.”

According to the Cruise Lines International Association, Massachusetts accounted for more than $434 million in cruise industry direct spending in 2008, a 6.5 percent increase over 2007. The Greater Boston Convention and Visitors’ Bureau estimates that a cruise passenger visiting Boston for a day spends on average between $100-$150 on retail, dining, sightseeing or cultural attractions.

The renovations will create separate processing areas for arriving and departing passengers of a single ship, and involves the renovation of about 83,000 square feet of unused warehouse space on the terminal’s third level as well as improvements to first and second floors. New stairs, escalators, elevators and an inclined moving walkway will also be added to move passengers between floors.

The project is still in its design phase, and currently incorporates several sustainable features including solar shading and natural ventilation to reduce the cost of cooling, energy-saving LED lighting, and energy-efficient elevators.

Departing passengers will enter the terminal at the East end where they can check their baggage and proceed directly to the third floor. Additionally, new bathrooms and a companion-care restroom will be built. Arriving passengers will get off the ship on the second floor and can use an elevator or the new inclined moving walkway to bring them to a new baggage claim area one the first floor. Passengers will exit the terminal via the building’s West end.

The $8 million project is expected to generate 60-75 construction jobs, and is scheduled to begin in February 2010 and be completed by the end of the year. The new enhancements will be funded by an increase in the passenger facility charge beginning in the 2011 cruise season. The terminal upgrade is the second phase of a larger $11 million project to upgrade the Black Falcon terminal. Earlier this year, the Massport Board approved $3 million for exterior painting, lighting, and signage enhancements currently underway and due for completion by the beginning of the 2010 cruise season.

In 2009, for the third consecutive year, Boston’s cruise business set a new record for passengers using the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal. There were 299,736 cruise passengers traveling through the Port of Boston, which is an 11% increase over last year.

The Port of Boston’s activity supports 34,000 jobs, and contributes more than $2 billion to the local, regional, and national economies through direct, indirect, and induced impact.