Tourist trade sunk as port cuts cruise visits

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The 317m Celebrity Eclipse cruise arriving in Dublin. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

DUBLIN Port plans to halve the number of cruise ships calling here.

Some 150 cruise ships berthed in Dublin last year and this year the figure will exceed 160 but the port plans to cut the number back to 80 in 2021. It says the space will be needed for cargo imports after Brexit.

The decision has alarmed tourist interests in the city which have benefited from the growth of cruise ship business in recent years.

In May last year the port welcomed the arrival of the first “turnaround” liner – a cruise ship twice the size of Croke Park. Turnaround business tends to involve passengers staying a night or two in the city before or after their cruise and city businesses were looking forward to an increase in this business.

Dublin Port executives had “a long discussion” about the plan with Minister for Transport Shane Ross. “The minister expressed his concern and we explained our rationale,” said Chief Executive Eamonn O’Reilly.

necessary to reassess the need for cruise berths, which are largely seasonal, against year-round cargo services

Mr O’Reilly defended the decision, saying there was a choice between meeting the demands of the cruise industry or the capacity to import. He told RTE it was necessary to ration capacity, given the competition for berth spaces. He said it was necessary to reassess the need for cruise berths, which are largely seasonal, against year-round cargo services.

Cruise business at the port has been growing in recent years, much of it encouraged by investment from the Port Company. There were 150 cruise ship calls in 2018, there will be more than 160 this year, and there are 140 bookings already for 2020.

The Dublin Port Company also secured planning permission in 2015 to deepen berths in the harbour in a move that was expected to see the cruise business and cargo volumes increase.

However, Mr O’Reilly told Morning Ireland that the company plans to reduce the number of cruise ships allowed into Dublin to 80 in 2021 because of the need for increased capacity for container traffic when the UK leaves the EU.

Huge growth in cargo volumes of some 36 per cent in the six years to 2018 has meant Dublin Port has had to plan to move all non-core activities from docks to a new “inland port” on land which has been acquired near Dublin Airport.

The Port Company said it has a major programme of capital works in Dublin Port that will see investment of €1 billion by 2028.

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