The V&A Waterfront is celebrating its 25th anniversary. PICTURE: WILLEM LAW
The V&A Waterfront is celebrating its 25th anniversary. PICTURE: WILLEM LAW

Cruise liner terminal plans flounder

By Anél Lewis Time of article published Aug 8, 2014

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Cape Town - Plans to build a dedicated cruise liner terminal in Cape Town may be abandoned because the City of Cape Town says it’s not financially viable.

And it’s possible that the only upgrade the Cape Town harbour may get for the existing terminal – which is too small for larger ships – is “a splash of paint”.

The findings of a study by the city’s tourism, events and marketing directorate, discussed at yesterday’s portfolio committee meeting, seem to fly in the face of development plans announced with much fanfare by Transnet just a year ago.

Transnet issued a call for bids for the development, earmarked for Berth E adjacent to the V&A Waterfront, during last October.

When the city and the ports authority signed a memorandum of understanding in October to create “a formal space” where the two entities could discuss planning infrastructure, Transnet confirmed that the 20-year contract for the development, construction and operation of the dedicated terminal would be signed by this November.

But Dr Theuns Vivian, of the city’s tourism, events and marketing directorate, said yesterday that its cruise liner study, conducted this year, indicated that a related terminal would stand idle for part of the year, having little value.

Instead, the city needed to consider a multi-purpose centre that would function throughout the year.

While cruise activities had increased in the past 10 years, and passenger volumes had doubled, South Africa accounted for only 0.6 percent of global passenger activity, he explained.

“This was negligible with limited growth potential.”

Furthermore, most of the passengers on the cruises were South African, which limited the contribution of this travel and leisure industry.

About 38 vessels with about 42 000 passengers are expected in Cape Town during the current 2013/14 cruise season, and an additional 18 vessels are scheduled for the 2014/15 season.

Almost half of these are linked to operations by MSC. A 2011 study, also by the City of Cape Town, found that one liner with 2 000 passengers and a crew of 600 could spend about R2.2-million a day in the city.

Vivian told the committee: “The outcome of the study indicates that major capital investment in infrastructure must be preceded with major increases in cruise tourism figures, and that the seasonality of this market requires a terminal facility that can be used for other purposes during long periods of low or no cruise passenger usage.”

The lease of the land, which is owned by Transnet, would expire in 2034.

“To have a massive construction spend on a 20-year lease is undesirable. Instead we will upgrade the existing facility, although this could be a splash of paint or the extension of the platform,” he said.

But Vivian said there was little impetus from the national government to make it possible for Cape Town to capitalise on the cruise liner market. He implied that Cape Town was getting ahead of itself by calling for a dedicated cruise liner terminal when its port was not on the main cruise lines.

“We don’t have a good case to promote cruise liner tourism.”

In his report, Vivian said: “Cape Town has limited home port cruise potential. It offers few itineraries, a truncated cruise season given wind issues throughout the summer months, and is hampered by air-lift accessibility.”

He proposed that Cape Town work with ports in Durban, Mauritius and the Seychelles to market the region as a whole to cruise liner companies.

Transnet had not responded to queries at the time of going to press.

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