Seatrade Insider – New study finds gap between ports perceptions, cruise lines needs

A study on the relationship between ports and cruise lines in the North Sea region has highlighted some startling discrepancies between cruise lines’ requirements and desires and the ports’ estimation of those needs.

‘Decision Criteria for Port Selection in the North Sea Region’ was released this week by Cruise Gateway North Sea at its mid-term conference in Colchester, UK.

An overview of the findings was presented by Helge Grammerstorf, md of SeaConsult, who carried out the research on behalf of Cruise Gateway North Sea.

The study collected and analysed the responses of 20 cruise line representatives and 12 cruise gateway member ports to questions covering their opinions on a number of issues including necessary port facilities, the image of the North Sea region, criteria that attract cruise lines, impact of Emission Control Areas and berth allocation procedures.

The results have produced two separate sets of minimum requirements for ports, one for transit ports and another, more demanding list for turnaround ports. Amongst the results are notable differences between the ports’ perception of what is important and the cruise lines’ priorities. For instance, 81% of ports considered a tourist information counter to be a requirement for a transit port whereas only 30% of cruise lines did.

The minimum requirements for a transit port are a clean and safe quay or pier and/or a safe anchorage and tender space. For turnaround ports, all cruise lines participating in the study identified luggage handling space, gangways and a parking area as requirements. More than 80% considered toilets, check-in facilities, security checks/techniques, clean and safe quay/pier/berthing, simple port procedures, infrastructure, simple waiting facilities, loading and working zone, ISPS zone, safety/customs area, efficient cruise terminal and airlift to be essential.

Alongside the list of ports requirements, the report summarises that the North Sea region lacks a clear identity and that cruise lines struggled to identify a unique selling proposition for the region, despite considering it an area of high content with attractive history, culture and landscapes. The North Sea region is perceived by cruise lines as a connection between smaller attractive regions such as the UK, Norway and the Baltic rather than a region in its own right.

Discrepancies between the ports and cruise lines show up throughout the study, especially on communication of information where the cruise lines’ preferred method of contact with ports is at trade shows and conferences (64%) whereas the ports assumed that printed brochures, port/destination websites, email/mail, personal visits and conference/trade shows would all rank above 80%.

In this particular group of questions, 66% of ports listed contact via phone as a preferred method of contact, however, the cruise lines returned 0%. The message is clear—don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Individual responses to questions were anonymous, but whilst discussing the impact of the region’s ECA, Grammerstorf mentioned the comment of a large cruise corporation representative who said the company intends to continue sailing the Baltic to St. Petersburg but will not raise ticket prices to meet rising fuel costs; it expects to see reduced port fees in the region to keep the routes viable. This single example hints at ECA-related tensions to come between ports and cruise lines.

Cruise Gateway North Sea is an EU Interreg IVB North Sea Region project aimed at identifying ways of promoting and encouraging cruise activity in the North Sea Region. Fifty percent funded by the EU, the project is a joint venture comprising 13 ports over seven countries, including the lead partner, Hamburg Cruise Center and Port of Hamburg.

The Cruise Gateway North Sea mid-term conference was held at FirstSite in Colchester and hosted by Haven Gateway, a group of local authorities and ports in the East of England, with further presentations from Nathan Philpot, sales and marketing director, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, and James Berresford, chief executive of Visit England. The event closed with a lunch aboard Thomson Spirit at Harwich.

Source: Published by kind permission of Seatrade Communications Ltd. This article first appeared in Seatrade Insider www.seatrade-insider.com in September 2012

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