File photo.

Durban -

A world-class cruise ship terminal that is part of the Durban Point Waterfront development is being planned for the city, with the Transnet National Ports Authority set to advertise a request for development proposals by February.

The ports authority wants to establish cruise terminals in Durban and Cape Town by 2015, which will improve boarding for thousands of cruise tourism passengers who now use makeshift facilities at both ports.

The preferred site for the new Durban cruise terminal, just inside the harbour and adjacent to the Point Waterfront, is seen as ideal, because Transnet wants the facility to be integrated with the waterfront project and tourist attractions such as uShaka Marine World.

Speaking to The Mercury, Tau Morwe, chief executive of the ports authority, said: “We are looking at a dedicated cruise terminal in Durban close to the port entrance. It needs to dovetail with planned development around the Durban Point Waterfront, and ultimately needs to be sustainable.”

He said Transnet envisioned retail and entertainment facilities, including cafés, pubs and restaurants, a tourism kiosk, and possibly a curio/flea market section as part of the project.

“The terminal will be operated on a seasonal basis in line with the cruise liner schedules, but to ensure an ongoing stream of income during the off season, the terminal needs to be able to double as a meeting, conference and exhibition venue,” added Morwe.

According to Transnet spokeswoman Lunga Ngcobo, a maritime theme has been proposed for the cruise terminal and could incorporate historical maritime artefacts.

“It is hoped that the terminal will assist in kick-starting development in the port area and have a multiplier effect in the tourism sector, thus bringing additional income into Durban,” she said.

The recent breakthrough Vetch’s deal between the Durban Point Waterfront developers and water sports clubs will also see development towards the harbour’s North Pier, which has been closed to the public since the harbour entrance was widened. Planned development of hotels, restaurants, shops and other facilities will mean the public can enjoy views of the harbour’s entrance channel again.

Ngcobo said the development of cruise terminals in Durban and Cape Town came in response to the tremendous growth that the cruise industry had enjoyed in recent years. Cruise tourism was the fastest-growing sector in the global tourism industry, and was set for continued growth.

There has been mounting pressure from MSC Cruises, the only major cruise operator in South African waters, for a cruise terminal in Durban. The operator says the cruise industry has gone from handling 4 000 passengers two decades ago to 130 000 passengers last year. Durban accounted for more than 90 000 of these.

Morwe said the ports authority had received a good response in May to its call for expression of interest for the design, construction and operation of cruise terminal facilities in Durban and Cape Town.

“We are preparing to progress to the next stage, a public request for proposals, and hope to finalise plans by mid-2013… We can’t talk about what investment we are likely to see, because that will be determined through the request-for-proposals process. The requirement is that both terminals meet the best international standards,” he said.

In 2010, former ports authority boss Khomotso Phihlela told The Mercury that an integrated cruise terminal in Durban could see an investment of not less than R500 million, and possibly up to R2 billion. This would include leisure and retail components, as well as a new Transnet office block.

Stefano Vigoriti, a director at MSC Cruises, said the operator was keen to get involved in the project. With the growth of cruise tourism, the Durban terminal project needed to be prioritised and built by 2015, he said. This could see even bigger cruise liners operate from the port.

The Mercury