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Travel & Holiday

More ships calling at new cruise centre

Marina Bay facility expecting over 70 visits from now until March next year.
The Straits Times - October 23, 2012
By: Jessica Lim
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More ships calling at new cruise centre DPM Teo (above), accompanied by Creuers board member Eduardo Cortada and Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran, waving to passengers aboard the Diamond Princess yesterday. The new cruise centre has doubled the number of berths in Singapore to

THE tide has turned for Singapore's new cruise terminal, with more than 70 calls by ships lined up between now and next March.

This translates to more than 200,000 passengers - a sharp turnaround from May, when the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore had its soft launch.

Then, only eight calls by cruise ships were scheduled till August.

"We started operating only in May; we hardly had time to do marketing. Yet, the ships are here. We're very happy," said

Mr Melvin Vu, chief executive of SATS-Creuers, which runs the centre.

He also pointed out that it is now peak season for the industry.

The $500million facility, which officially opened yesterday, is more than twice the size of the other terminal at HarbourFront, and has doubled the number of berths in Singapore to four.

The aim is to attract ships too big to dock at HarbourFront, which cannot take liners more than 52m tall because of cable cars running between Mount Faber and Sentosa.

The new terminal also means ships no longer have to dock at Jurong Port and Pasir Panjang Container Terminal when there is overcrowding.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who officiated at the opening ceremony of the 28,000 sq m facility, called it an important milestone in the development of the cruise industry here.

The global cruise industry, he noted, is projected to grow 7.4per cent annually to reach 22.4million passengers by 2015.

He said cruise travellers make up only 0.1per cent of Asia's population today, compared with 3.3per cent in North America.

"Growing from 0.1per cent to 1per cent market penetration in Asia could translate into 30million cruise passengers, or three times the number of cruise passengers in North America today."

Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea are opening new terminals to capture this market.

Singapore is expecting 11 maiden calls from ships this year, up from three last year. They include Royal Caribbean International's 15-deck Voyager of the Seas, which made its maiden call at the new cruise centre on May26.

Mr Kevin Leong, general manager of Asia Cruise Association, said the extra berths are crucial.

"You need to ensure that when ships call, there is space for them. In the past, they had to berth at container ports, which was not ideal for passengers," he said, noting that competition will keep the cruise terminals on their toes.

The 21-year-old International Passenger Terminal at HarbourFront, which had 394 cruise-ship visits last year, completed a $14million renovation last month. This included doubling immigration clearance counters and building VIP check-in lounges.

But it has not prevented at least one operator from jumping ship. Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas will be calling at the new terminal 30 times from the end of this month till early April next year. It previously docked at HarbourFront. The switch, said Royal Caribbean Cruises (Asia) spokesman Chin Ying Duan, is for "operational efficiency".

Star Cruises is sticking with HarbourFront. "They are very accommodating to our requests when we have big groups," said manager Tan Xue Jing, adding that facilities around the new terminal are not well developed. "But who knows, a few years down the road when the area is developed, plans might change."

The growing market has benefited travel firms like Chan Brothers, where cruise package sales have risen by 30 per cent year-on year for the past two years.

It has also prompted Carnival Corporation, the world's largest cruise company, to open a corporate office here soon.

How they compare

Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore

  • Maximum pier length: 360m
  • Maximum height clearance for ships: No height restriction
  • Terminal space: 28,000 sq m
  • Number of berths: Two

 

International Passenger Terminal at HarbourFront

  • Maximum pier length: 310m
  • Maximum height clearance for ships: 52m
  • Terminal space: 12,800sqm
  • Number of berths: Two
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