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Cruise growth provides opportunity regardless of Brexit
Plans to extend facilities for cruise liners and their passengers are being considered in separate initiatives involving the private sector, after Gibraltar’s successes in attracting more operators and ships to call at the Port
revealed: “There are potential plans to develop the cruise ship infrastructure in the port, in conjunction with the Gibraltar Tourist Board. These are the subject of discussions with the private sector.”
The Port can handle all but the world’s largest liners currently operating, or due to operate, in the Mediterranean; in 2016 ‘Ovation of the Seas’ (length 347m) with 4010 passenger capacity, became the largest to berth at Gibraltar.
Larger ships possible
“The outer berth would need to be dredged in order to accommodate the deepest draught vessels”, Sanguinette confirmed. This could form part of a wider infrastructure development project.
Measures to encourage cruise vessels to remain in port for longer, include permitting their casinos and other revenue generating outlets to open after 6pm, which brings fuel saving and “passengers can benefit from a wider variety of shore excursion options”, Sanguinette explained, and “off-duty crew and passengers can go ashore to enjoy Gibraltar’s nightlife”.
It “has been popular with cruise companies with just under 15% of cruise vessels taking advantage of this incentive during 2016”.
Liners account for only a small proportion of the 9,000 vessels handled by the port last year, up 6 per cent on 2015, most calls being for bunkers.
Sanguinette, who is also is Captain of the Port, observed: “Gibraltar enjoys, strategically placed location at the meeting point of a large number of very busy shipping lanes at the entrance to the Mediterranean.	So whether Brexit changes the way we do business or not, that fundamentally will not change.” (See Profile, p18)
Yet in its HoL submission, the GPA noted that some 88% of all goods are import- ed into Gibraltar by road via the border, including almost all food and fuel. “Should access through the land border be denied for all commercial/industrial traffic, the only alternative for importation of goods to Gibraltar will be by sea”, it reasoned, adding: “Even if possible at all, this would entail the entire reconfiguration of the Port.”
Ray Spencer
two of the cruise ships that docked simultaneously in the port on 70 days in 2016
The moves to expand the port activity are seen as one way the economy can be bolstered against the anticipated effects of a ‘hard’ Brexit from the EU in two years’ time; by definition, liners arrive by sea and are largely unaffected by the frontier, which it is feared may be seriously interrupted by Spain.
Government written evidence to the House of Lords (HoL) EU Select Committee in January observed, “there are for Gibraltar few opportunities worthy of mention” and declared: “The prospect of a closed or hard border is the most serious single issue that arises for Gibraltar from Brexit”.
For the second successive year there has been a general improvement in operational efficiency in handling of cruise ships and other vessels seeking bunker fuels, supplies, crew changes and repairs with the result that “considerable scope” remains to grow business further.
The Gibraltar cruise terminal experi- enced a record 2016, both in respect of the 224 cruise calls received (10% up) and a 17% increase in passengers (425,845), compared with a year earlier. Some 40% of passengers and crew went ashore and in 2015 (the latest figures available) show they spent £13.76m, up 32% on 2014. The average spend by ship visitors was over £40 per person, more than twice as much as those that crossed the border.
“Gibraltar continues to grow as a port destination in the Mediterranean, with 2017 expected to be another busy year,” Gilbert Licudi, minister for Tourism and the Port reported. A total of 257 calls are expected this
year, including seven inaugural cruise ships; Panorama II of Variety Cruises that arrives first in mid-May is making 20 visits in 2017!
In June, The Rock hosts the 50th MedCruise Annual General Assembly of the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports, which Gibraltar helped found 21 years ago. Cruise line executives and MedCruise member ports will “discuss the latest developments of the cruise industry, the implications of cruising in the Med and its adjoining seas, plus developments in the region”, said Nicky Guerrero, chief executive of Gibraltar Tourist Board.
The event “provides an opportunity to
showcase Gibraltar to the cruise industry and to encourage cruise lines to increase their calls to Gibraltar”, he added.
The port has capacity to berth four medium sized cruise ships, or two large and two small ones. Another cruise ship could anchor in the Bay of Gibraltar, with passengers transferred ashore by tender, although this did not happen last year.
Three cruise ships arrived simultaneous- ly on 12 occasions in 2016, and two cruise ships on 70 days. Guerrero told Gibraltar International: “Growth for us has been consistent over the last few years and we hope this will prevail. The port is by no means at full capacity, aside from a few days each year where all berths are taken up; there still is room for growth.
“Ideally we would want a ship to call every day of the year, but we must be realistic about the industry seasonal trends.”
Commodore Bob Sanguinette, Gibraltar Port Authority (GPA) chief executive,
Gibraltar International

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