Cruise terminal will revitalise waterfront

By Terry Hutson Time of article published May 23, 2012

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A rather significant item of advertising appeared in The Mercury last Friday when Transnet National Ports Authority invited interested parties to submit “expressions of interest” for the funding, design, construction and operation of Durban’s future cruise passenger terminal.

That the ports authority intends going ahead with this project has been reported previously, but this is the first positive step in the process of moving with the project.

What makes it even more interesting is that the approach is somewhat different from that of last year, when Transnet indicated that it might go ahead on its own to provide the facility.

With the process having been delayed, the schedule for the tender process is now tight, although it is believed that several parties have already expressed interest.

There is a compulsory briefing meeting taking place on Friday, June 1, and the submission of documents has to be made by 10am on June 29, which doesn’t leave much time for deliberation.

During the immediate past cruise season which ended in April, more than 120 000 cruise passengers visited SA, of which between 80 000 and 90 000 called at Durban. Of this, the majority would have been passengers on the MSC Sinfonia or MSC Melody, ships which originated and ended their respective cruises in the port.

Passengers on these ships (MSC Opera and MSC Sinfonia for the 2012/13 cruise season) will be the main users of a future cruise terminal, whereas passengers arriving on ships that are simply passing through Durban and which spend less than a day in the port are unlikely to have much need of a dedicated cruise terminal. Their main goal is to disembark from the ship soon after arrival and board buses or taxis that whisk them away to local tourist attractions.

Such passengers will make use of the terminal facilities only if time permits.

The other factor that Transnet will no doubt be taking into consideration is that the cruise season lasts for only half the year, usually between November and April, after which few if any passenger ships will call, unless Durban can succeed in attracting an all-year cruise schedule among cruise operators.

So whoever opts to develop and operate the new cruise terminal will have to figure out what to do with the building for the other half of the year. It is clear, therefore, that Durban’s new cruise terminal will have to be multipurpose with other activities included that can take place within its structure.

The terminal is being planned for the area known as berth B at the Point, which lies in close proximity to the Point Waterfront development. There are suggestions that because of this closeness, the new cruise terminal will complement the Point development.

We could, therefore, see a return of waterside restaurants and pubs such as we had in the days before the harbour entrance was widened. Allied to the promised reopening of the North Pier breakwater, this could revitalise what has become a stagnant Point waterside development.

The proposed cruise terminal will be operated on a common user basis, meaning that no one company may have a monopoly over its use. The tight schedule calls for the terminal to be in operation by the end of 2015.

Also of interest is that of a second tender notice calling for similar expressions for a cruise terminal at Cape Town – the first time there has been an indication that Transnet is willing to provide the wharfside space in that port for a dedicated passenger terminal.

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