City works to attract more smaller ships to make economic case for larger berth to be built
Plymouth’s dream of having an £8million cruise ship berth has not died – but in any case more ships packed with tourists are coming to the city.
With the first of three cruise ships scheduled for 2018 having already visited the Ocean City, tourist chiefs are busy working on attracting even more vessels.
Two more will dock this year and there will be five further visits in 2019.
But this is just the precursor to many more ships arriving in 2020 and beyond – bringing a money-spinning boost to the city economy.
And that’s without the city having a purpose-built cruise berth.
If one is built in Millbay to accommodate ships up to 275m long it could prove even more lucrative for Plymouth.
However, no firm decision has been taken.
In October 2017 Plymouth City Council ordered a new feasibility study into the risks attached to borrowing huge sums of cash to pay for a £8million berthing facility at Millbay.
But Destination Plymouth and Associated British Ports (ABP), the company which owns and operates Millbay Docks, say the plan for creating a berth in the port is still afloat.
Without a new berth, which would allow larger ships to dock, the city can still welcome 40 per cent of the world’s cruise vessels.
And tourism chiefs, gearing up for the 2020 Mayflower 400 celebrations, said Plymouth is on course to welcome hordes of visitors and this will help make the economic case for a new berth to be built.
Amanda Lumley, executive director of Destination Plymouth, said: “Our ambition is to extend the berth.”
She added: “We can get larger cruise liners into the Sound, up to 300m, but the challenge is they do not like anchoring off shore and having to tender passengers into port.
“So there is a longer term ambition to have larger ships in berth and it would need to be extended.
“The challenge is the capital investment.
“As with any business, you would not invest capital into a project until you know there is going to be a return.
“So we are stimulating demand in the market so investors will want to invest.”
That is why there is a push to attract as many smaller ships as possible now – to prove the city is a hotspot for visitors.
Mrs Lumley said the current trend in cruising is for passengers who want an “experience”, and Plymouth aims to tap into this by using Mayflower 400.
A consortium of Associated British Ports, Destination Plymouth, Plymouth Waterfront Partnership, Plymouth City Council, and Brittany Ferries is now working to bring in more ships.
In 2017 a delegation attended the sixth Seatrade Europe fair, in Hamburg, Germany, and then the 2018 Seatrade Cruise Global event in Fort Lauderdale, USA.
“For the first time we took Plymouth to market as a cruise port,” she said.
“It was well received and the cruise operators were interested.
“There was demand in the market for from cruise vessels that could fit on our berth.
“Since then we have put extra funding and resources in.
“We have had several cruise operators come to Plymouth and have shown them around, and several more are interested in coming.”
Mike Reynolds, operations manager at ABP Plymouth, said discussions were ongoing with Brittany Ferries, the main user of Millbay docks, about the berth and how big it would need to be.
He said the idea is to extend the current berth, which can take vessels up to 210m in length and is therefore “a bit short for cruise liners”.
He said difficulties navigating around Drake’s Island mean some super-large vessels will not be able to get into Millbay, but, nevertheless, ships of up to 275m, containing up to 2,000 people, could be accommodated with a longer berth.
There are various options, and he said a longer berth may not be needed if “mooring dolphins”, structures that are not connected to the shore but in effect extend the berth, are placed in the dock.
“If you can moor the vessel and you have the berth, it does not have to be the full length of the ship,” he said.
And Mr Reynolds was upbeat about future prospects, adding: “From a point where Plymouth was not on the cruise map we are now getting more interest, and, hopefully, 2020 will be even better.
“It will bring income into the economy.
“The reason they come is to see the local attractions. Some stay in Plymouth, others go to Dartmoor, or other places.”
Source: ww.plymouthherald.co.uk, 4 May 2018