Bigger capacity, faster clearance

To be ready by 2011, new cruise terminal can cater to big ships, speed up passenger processing
By Lim Wei Chean

SINGAPORE’S new $500 million cruise terminal at Marina South will have two berths that can accommodate the world’s biggest cruise ships.

To be ready by 2011, the International Cruise Terminal (ICT) will also have state-of-the-art facilities that will enable passengers to clear immigration, security and luggage claims within half an hour.

Passengers at the existing HarbourFront cruise centre, by contrast, are sent on their way in about 45 minutes.

The ICT’s bigger capacity will also mean it can handle up to 3,000 passengers in an hour, compared to HarbourFront’s 2,500 passengers an hour.

At the ground-breaking ceremony for the new terminal yesterday, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang, who was the guest of honour, said the ICT will help Singapore realise its ambition of becoming the region’s cruise hub.

Key to this is the ability to allow bigger cruise ships to dock. The HarbourFront terminal is limited by height restrictions – it cannot accommodate liners that are more than 52m in height.

This rules out some of the bigger luxury ships such as Rhapsody Of The Seas and Queen Mary 2, which sail in as part of their round-the-world trips or for regional trips to Hong Kong, China or Vietnam.

Currently, such vessels are forced to dock at the Pasir Panjang Container Terminal, located about 5km away from the HarbourFront terminal.

This is a less than ideal situation, cruise operators said.

There are no proper embarkation and disembarkation facilities at the Pasir Panjang terminal, leading to safety problems as some elderly passengers have to negotiate the ship’s gangway to enter and leave the ships. They also have to be ferried out of the terminal in shuttle buses.

Having well-heeled passengers on such liners get on and off at industrial areas also does not do much for Singapore’s image, the operators said.

More importantly, the lack of facilities in Singapore means cruise operators do not want to deploy their bigger ships here. For example, Rhapsody Of The Seas has not been back since its first season here in 2007.

This means Singapore is losing out on opportunities to tap the fast-growing cruise industry.

According to data from the World Tourism Organisation and the Cruise Lines International Association, global cruise arrivals form the fastest-growing segment of the tourism market.

Ms Margaret Teo, the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) assistant chief executive of the development group, said the Asia-Pacific region, which has only 7 per cent of the world’s cruise market, has huge potential to grow.

A record one million cruise passengers are expected to arrive in Singapore by the end of the year, and STB is targeting 1.6 million cruise passengers by 2015.

Cruise operators, who have long complained that the lack of facilities is a big obstacle to the Republic’s growth as a cruise hub, and have been lobbying for a new terminal for years, said they are glad the project is finally under way.

The ICT had been slated to open next year, but was delayed by a year because the design had to be updated.

SOURCE: Straits Times

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