Protest groups have hit back at Portland Port after bosses claimed a cruise ship cancellation due to demonstrations was estimated to cost the local economy £400,000.

Protesters who have been campaigning against the asylum seeker barge due at Portland say the port is responsible for the "root cause" of the issue.

On Saturday July 8, the huge Regal Princess ship with thousands of passengers decided against docking at Portland Port due to concerns over safety, with two protests happening outside the port gates on the same day.

Stand Up to Racism Dorset and the NO TO THE BARGE Group both held protests to voice their anger at plans to house 500 asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge.

Bill Reeves, Chief Executive of Portland Port, said this week that the visit of the cruise ship would have generated approximately £400,000 for the local economy.

He said: "The port has also lost berthing fees but this is significantly outweighed by the overall cost to the local economy."

Now the protest groups have hit back at Portland Port, saying the blame for the loss of money to the economy lies with the Port for agreeing the deal with the Home Office.

Alex Bailey, speaking on behalf of the NO TO THE BARGE Group said: "It is for everyone reading to make their own minds up about what Portland Port has said and done.

"We understand that there will be a community-wide sadness caused by any loss to the local economy.

"Many of us question whether Portland Port has even considered the negative financial impacts on others, when they alone agreed to moor Bibby Stockholm.

"The financial decision made by Portland Port to accept the widely objected Bibby Stockholm barge without any consultation, and their choice after to avoid liaison with concerned local residents has left us with little option but to voice our opposition in the form of protest.

"This was a decision not taken lightly, and one made after the port chose not to liaise with the community which, since the protest march, has changed.

"It is deeply unfortunate that some businesses have reportedly been affected by the joint decision between local authorities and the Regal Princess to divert from Portland.

"But, we cannot forget the root cause of this issue, which is Portland Port itself and their secretive agreement with the Home Office.

"We welcome cruise ships and their passengers into our towns and know that there are many businesses who support our campaign."

Mr Bailey said the group will continue to protest the barge but did not confirm whether they would target cruise ship arrivals in the future.

It comes as protesters quickly assembled at the Port following the arrival of the Norwegian Dawn ship on Tuesday.

Stand Up To Racism Dorset hosted a separate Unity protest last Saturday, marching from the Port to Portland Hospital.

They laid the blame on the port owners as well as the Government.

A spokesperson for Stand Up To Racism said: "Responsibility for developments at Portland Port lies with the government and with Langham Industries, owners of the Port.

"Their agreement to berth this barge at Portland was made without consultation and in the face of widespread opposition in Weymouth and Portland.

"We are appalled at the profiteering from the predicament of refugees and the new pressures placed on services in our area.

"Problems with cruise liners should be referred to the port owners with its shameful aim of making money from human tragedy.”