Eat your heart out Durban
Jan 4, 2007
Tourism authorities at Durban in particular have worked hard in recent years at attracting greater numbers of cruise ships to come to Southern Africa and Durban in particular. In some respects this hard work has paid off, with Starlight Cruises and MSC Cruises jointly operating the 1500-passenger cruise ship Melody from the port during summer months in addition to other visiting ships.
Attempts to also station a second MSC cruise ship, Monterey at Durban on an all-year basis fell through when the popular American-built ship developed boiler problems that hastened her end at the breakers yards in India.
The motivating factor behind these efforts comes into perspective when once looks at what was recently achieved at Port Everglades in Florida, USA Ė not that Durban or any other East or Southern African port would harbour ambitions of such magnitude or importance, but it does reflect the sheer value to the tourism industry of cruise ship visits.
On a single day last month, 23 December, over 46,000 passengers either sailed into or out from Port Everglades, setting a new record for any port anywhere. As has been pointed out in the American media, this was enough people to fill one hundred 747 jumbo aircraft.
It required 13 cruise ships in port that day to achieve this new record Ė the previous record held also by Port Everglades at 44,000 passengers required 15 ships, indicating how cruise ships are getting bigger by the year.
The logistics of handling or processing such large numbers of passengers is pretty mind boggling and one wonders how well any South Africa port would cope with just a fraction of this number. At times Durban and Cape Town have hosted up to three cruise ships in port together and have coped quite well, but in the case of Durban at least it has been with few passengers either beginning or ending their cruises in port, thus reducing the need for immigration and other officialdom.
Already there are reports that Durbanís N-Shed passenger terminal takes strain twice a week when the Melody disgorges its flock of guests even as another group of over anxious passengers gathers in anticipation of going on board. Multiply this a couple of times and one wonders how our ports would cope.
Of course itís not only the strain on port facilities but also on local airports, hotels, taxi services, tour bus services, road systems etc that come into question. This was borne out during a visit by Miami port officials about two years ago when they emphasised the planning that needs to go into accommodating large numbers of passengers.
Look at all the fuss and preparation and investment that is going into preparing for the 2010 World Soccer Cup in which up to 60,000 or 70,000 people have to be accommodated for what will basically be a one-off event, then consider how much real potential there is in attracting cruise ships with their thousands of better behaved visitors to our shores and cities.
In the meantime Durban can eat its heart out at what Port Everglades enjoys on a fairly regular basis.
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