Red flags raised for new cruise terminal

Cape Town – Just under a year ago Transnet announced a multi-billion-rand plan to build a dedicated cruise liner terminal in Cape Town but now a study done by the City says it may not be financially viable. 

The cruise terminal issue started back in 2012 when Cape Town’s cruise tourism received a knock after the Department of Home Affairs banned cruise liners longer than 200m from berthing at the Waterfront.

Ships are currently only allowed to dock at the distant and rather unattractive E and J berths at Duncan Dock. 

Transnet put out a tender for a 20-year contract about a year ago, for the construction of a dedicated terminal, expected to include special arrival and departure facilities as well as take visitors closer to the tourist attractions of the V&A Waterfront.

IOL reports, despite the findings of a study done by the City of Cape Town's tourism, events and marketing directorate which indicates the cruise passenger numbers might not be enough to validate the investment – Transnet says it is going ahead with its plans.

Dr Theuns Vivian, of the city's tourism, events and marketing directorate, says “a related terminal would stand idle for part of the year, having little value”.

South Africa’s cruise season runs from October to April and while activity has increased in the past 10 years, and passenger volumes had doubled globally, he said South Africa accounts for only 0.6 percent of overall passenger activity.

Vivian said in the report that since local cruises, with South African passengers, accounted for almost half of the activity to the city, " contributions to the travel and leisure industry were limited".

Yet the upcoming cruise season expects about 38 vessels with about 42 000 passengers to arrive in Cape Town and an additional 18 vessels are scheduled for the 2014/15 season.

According to the report, Vivian says the marked seasonality of cruising requires an increase in Cape Town being featured on international cruise lines and a terminal facility that can be used for other purposes during long periods of low or no cruise passenger usage. The issue caused by strong summer winds during the peak cruising period in the city were also cause for concern.  

In response to Vivian’s cautionary findings, Western Cape MEC Alan Winde said the City was working on the Cape Town International Convention Centre and that bidders would be factoring the off-peak period into their due diligence as well as including proposals of how the facility could be used throughout the year.

Winde has consistently shown support for the idea, previously stating it brought more than 10 000 visitors to the province each year and generated an estimated R200m for the local economy.

Mayor Patricia de Lille has also voiced support for the sector’s economic importance, following the results of the Cruise Terminal study saying, “We believe is is essential to growing the tourism market and, as a result, job creation in Cape Town”.