26 September 2012
Report highlights cruise lines’ port priorities - Cruise Gateway Midterm conference

A unique report into the way cruise lines choose which ports to include in their itineraries has been published by the European Union-funded project Cruise Gateway North Sea Region.

The report, compiled on behalf of Cruise Gateway by Hamburg consultancy firm SeaConsult, reveals some telling differences when it comes to the priorities named by cruise lines and the ports that handle cruise business.

The importance of a clean and safe berth, sufficient luggage handling space and parking areas were priorities named by both cruise lines and ports. However, while cruise lines rated factors such as gangways, an efficient cruise terminal and simple port procedures as vital requirements at turnround ports, the ports questioned rated these far lower in importance.

Ports, meanwhile, rated services such as bunkering facilities, crew areas and tourist information far more importantly than cruise lines did.

The findings of the report, entitled ‘Decision Criteria for Cruise Port Selection in the North Sea Region’, were presented by Helge Grammerstorf, managing director of SeaConsult, at the Cruise Gateway mid-term conference, hosted by the Haven Gateway.

A key issue highlighted was the relationship between ports and the cruise lines they serve. “Ports don’t treat cruise lines like customers,” he said. “The cruise lines said ‘we are not on the same side of the table – we want to be treated like customers’.”

The report also highlighted the lack of a clear identity for the North Sea Region, particularly relevant to the Cruise Gateway project, which is seeking to encourage and promote cruise activity in the NSR. However, he said: “This identity could be built up in the future.”

Something more difficult to tackle will be the impact – still unclear – of the new Emission Control Area (ECA) regulations which will force ships in the North Sea Region to use low-sulphur fuel from 2015. Cruise lines faced with higher fuel costs are likely to put pressure on ports to reduce their rates, warned Mr Grammerstorf. “Remote ports may have to reduce their port costs to compensate for rising fuel costs, if they are to stay attractive.”

However, Sebastian Doderer, representing the Cruise Gateway project’s lead partner, Port of Hamburg Marketing, reported that research revealed that many passengers would be prepared to pay a little more for a cruise if they knew the cruise line supported sustainability efforts. Some 35% of those questioned said they would pay €50 more; 15% said they would pay €100, and 15% said they would pay more than €100, he said. “What was surprising for us was that they were willing to pay at all.”

The mid-term conference of the three-year Cruise Gateway North Sea Region project was held in Colchester and Harwich. Other speakers included:

  •  Nathan Philpot, sales and marketing director of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines: he told the conference that every time a cruise ship calls into a port, it generates £1.5m for the local economy, including direct benefits such as check-in staff and baggage handlers, indirect benefits such as hotels and shops, and other benefits such as taxis and food suppliers.
  • James Berresford, chief executive of VisitEngland: he told delegates that tourism is the fifth largest industrial sector in the UK economy and worth £97bn in England alone, but is often overlooked and undervalued. “In this day and age of financial constraints and economic difficulties, tourism is one of the areas that offers potential for growth. Last year tourism grew by 7% in England,” he said.
  • David Ralph, chief executive of the Haven Gateway: he highlighted Cruise Gateway’s efforts to persuade the cruise industry that the North Sea could offer ‘something different’. He said: “We want to celebrate the North Sea. We are asking: what is the North Sea Region’s competitive advantage? What are the unique things that attract you about the North Sea? We are highlighting the opportunities that the North Sea presents in terms of destinations and attractions, including accessible ports with short distances between them; and the fantastic variety of landscapes, food, culture and history.”
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