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Ports and Passengers in the Mediterranean

Conference speech presented at the Seatrade Mediterranean Cruise and Ferry Convention (Genoa, 17-20 September 1996)

By Luis Montero, Port of Barcelona (12/11/96)

Before beginning the study of a port terminal for handling cruise passengers traffic, we need to have a clear idea about how this form of tourism works.
It is important to know the trends in terms of the types and characteristics of vessels and the demands that these involve, in terms of infrastructure (access channels, berthing length, draft, fenders, moorings, etc.) positioning (tugs, pilots, mooring places, etc.) and even possible anchoring areas.

Also, capacity in terms of the number of passengers and the state of origin/final destination or transit of the cruise vessel will determine guidelines to be followed in terms of the size of both the terminal and the areas intended for overland transport (buses, taxis, hire vehicles, etc.) and the availability of control and security services.

However, economic justification of the investment required by the facilities calls for careful analysis of the market with regard to its evolution and current state and its trends and future possibilities.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning that the fastest growing sector of the tourist trade in the 1990s has unquestionably been that of tourist cruises.
This comes as a result of investment in the construction of new luxury vessels and in promoting the sector with the contribution of shipowners to provide the greatest possible attraction for future customers, thus facilitating demand growth.

The availability of a wide and good quality supply of cruises and itineraries is fundamental for stimulating growth and market sustainability.
Specialized vessels for specific market segments and types of customer (private group holidays, company incentive trips, seminars and conferences, pilgrimages, etc.) do even more to promote this aspect.

The cruise market doubled in the 1980s and increased by around 65% from 1985 to 1990 to reach the figure of 4.5 million passengers at the end of the decade.
According to experts in the field, the cruise market has a potential capacity which will allow it to continue to grow at the current rate until at least 2005.

All studies carried out concur in predicting a strong potential growth, with turnover figures of USD 50 - 80 billion and the possibility of reaching the figure of 10 million passengers by the year 2000.
The highest participation is from the United States, Canada and countries of the European Union (United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain).

The North American market is currently the largest in terms of volume and will probably grow at a slower pace (5 - 9%) than in recent year (10%), reaching the figure of some 7.5 million passengers by the end of this decade.

The Japanese market is less predictable due to its particularities, such as the length of the holiday season, Japanese preferences and the high cost of air travel, although the popularity of cruises and the coordination between airlines and cruise lines will provide added growth in this market.

Generally speaking, the Asian market will continue to grow more strongly in countries with a solid economy (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea) and it will be interesting to see how countries such as China enter into this market.
In Europe, cruise traffic went from 337,000 passengers in 1993 to 379,000 in 1994; this represents an increase of 12.5%, centred around the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, with 45 vessels and 287,000 passengers on the Baltic (24%).
The principal market for the Mediterranean is, without a doubt, North America.

The hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985 and the Gulf War in 1991 led to a drop in the number of passengers and vessels in our area. However, the Barcellona Olympic Games in 1992 gave the sector a fresh vote of confidence and the result has been a continued and positive growth in traffic.

There are two different regions in the Mediterranean which runs from Spain, along the southern coast of France to Italy, and the Eastern Mediterranean, from Greece to Turkey, Egypt and Israel. The Latter region is the more popular and has 60% of the market.
Itineraries including Malta and Tuniz have recently been added.

The Mediterranean offers to cruise tourism a high level of historical and cultural heritage and a wide diversity of scenary. This, together with a pleasant climate makes the area especially attractive and difficult to compete against.
The fact that tourism on land is well developed here should also be taken into account as it means that there is a plentiful supply of hotels of all kinds and well structured agency services.

The Mediterranean is currently one of the fastest growing, most popular destinations. With better promotion within the European market and by attempting to compensate for the marked seasonal differences, the Mediterranean could even surpass the Caribbean as the world's most attractive and popular cruise area.

The Caribbean and the Mediterranean will continue to be the most popular cruise destinations for European tourists, while Asia and the Far East will continue to grow strongly.
Generally, in terms of vessels, the market is segmented into specific areas and in each one of these into type of cruise ship. The cruise vessels which generate most profit are those which provide optimum coverage of requirements of each sector with regard to number of places and the type and category of services available.
The size of the vessel is the most important parameter for adapting to the market segment.

The restrictions imposed by port facilities can considerably limit the dimensions of the vessel (length and draft); if the vessel cannot gain access to the port facilities, it is necessary to use ferry craft which makes the operation of getting passengers to land more difficult and even dangerous.
The second important parameter for the vessel is its speed, which with the new generation has gone from 21 to 25 knots. This allows for longer-distance itineraries with a greater number of calls.
However, an excessive increase in power and therefore operating costs.
There is also a tendency to for shipowners to standardise outfitting in order to reduce costs and cope with the tough competition.
There is a general trend toward more environmentally friendly vessels with less toxic emissions and hazardous waste, which use recyclable material and have greater fire safety.

Another aspects to bear in mind when analysing the chances of being chosen as a port of call on a cruise itinerary are those which are considered to be essential when the itineraries followed by the cruise lines are planned.
Planning an itinerary includes commercial, logistics and social factors.

Firstly, the sales department of the line sees the opportunity to place a particular vessel in a specific market or region, trying to ensure that the itineraries are in accordance with the company's strategy and that they are profitable.
The sales department must bear in mind possible customers, prices and competition in the area, as well as agents, operators, etc, in order to organise the sales network.
Subsequently, logistics factors are approached, where the port and its settings play a fundamental role.

The distance between the ports to be included on the itinerary and the established journey time should be compatible with the maximum speed of the vessel.
The availability of berthing and the time spent in the port of call should also borne in mind.
The infrastructure of the port, access channels, wharves and anchorage should be suitable for the size of the vessel calling. This will either limit the size of the vessel or, what is more likely, eliminate the limiting port from the itinerary.
In the same way, the number of passengers per call requires suitable port facilities to allow efficient embarking/desembarking operations, control of both passengers and luggage and to facilitate overland transport and ship supplies.
In the port vicinity, leisure facilities, possible excursions, beaches, spectacular scenary, shopping, etc., are evaluated.

In social terms, planning the itinerary involves analysing the behaviour, habits and customs of possible customers in order to find out their preferences and ways to satisfy them.
Thus, for example, itineraries for European passengers tend to include a number of ports of call and activities on land, such as excursions, cultural visits, etc. and the destination of the cruise ship is often as or more important than the services offered by the vessel.
American middle class seems to prefer to spend more time on the vessel enjoying its facilities.

Another very important aspect with regard to itineraries, especially when the objective is to establishing the point of departure and the final destination, and which is therefore essential for the port if it wishes to achieve home-port status, is the availability of an international airport with a large number of regular lines within reasonable distance - the nearer the better.

Finally, a deciding factor is safety, both in the port and country to be included in the route. Passengers should feel safe at all times.
American cruise passengers are especially sensitive to this.

The decision to include a port on a specific itinerary will depend on a satisfactory evaluation of each of the factors mentioned.

Having explained all this, we should ask the following questions: What can and should we do in the Mediterranean to attract and maintain a growing level of cruise traffic? What types of facilities should our ports offer cruise lines and their passengers in order to be included in their itineraries and, if possible, to attain home - port status?

In general terms, the following could be established as suitable characteristics to achieve the status of home port:

A city with capital features, with different attractions, monuments, museums, concert and festival hails, theatres, shops, restaurants, etc.
A large number and variety of hotels for pre/post cruise holidays.
International air connections, especially with North America and Europe, but not forgetting the future potential of the Far East. Good train and bus services covering a wide area are also necessary.
A friendly, cosmopolitan atmosphere with plenty of people who can speak English, especially in shops and agencies. Agency staff should be capable of organising trips, pre/post cruise tours, etc.
High level of safety throughout the country.

Location close to the city centre (15 - 20 minutes by taxi or bus) and not too far from the airport (30-40 minutes by taxi or train).
Easy, well signposted access and ample supervised parking close to the terminal.
Facilities on the wharf which make it possible to supply materials, provisions, water, fuel, electricity, etc. without disturbing passengers embarking or disembarking.
The width of area for these operations may be 15 - 30 metres from the berthing line. The recommended volume of fresh water is no less tan 90 m=b3/hour. The use of barges with a capacity of 2500 - 5000 tonnes is recommended for taking on fuel.
Fire brigade, emergency and ambulance services, Red Cross, etc.
Shipyard with dry-dock or slipways for repairing or checking large vessels.
Appropriate lighting at accesses, car parks and operations areas for night work.
Anchoring areas for emergency or waiting with the possibility of safe ferrying to land.
Garbage, waste oil, sludge and bilge collection services, preferably using barges, and port water cleaning services.
Wharves with lines at least 300 m long and with 9 - 11 m draft and fenders and bollards at 25 - 30 metre intervals, to be capable of accommodating vessels of 80,000 to 100,000 GT. This is to enable them to offer secure berthing to the new magaliners already on the market or on order.

Generally, they should be efficient, secure, clean and clearly signposted (the use of pictograms is recommended).

The following should be established as minimum specific services:
Public telephones (cash or credit card payment)
Duty - free shop
Bar - restaurant
Parking facilities
Information service
Customs facilities
Police - Immigration
Shuttle bus to city centre
Taxi rank
Newspaper stand (international press)
Rent - a - car
Souvenir shop
Foreign exchange
Travel agency - tickets - flight confirmation

A security plan should be implemented which covers the strictest legal requirements (with metal detectors, X-rays, closed-circuit TV, access control, etc.), coordinated by specially trained staff and the state security forces=2E.
Ample covered area for handling and distribution of baggage, taking into account the large capacity of the vessels.
Distribution operations should not take more than 60 - 90 minutes per 1000 passengers and airport-style carousels may be installed where the annual traffic volume makes it economically viable.
The space requirements for baggage also depends on the lenght of the cruise. For a 7 - to 10-day cruise, at least 1-1.2 m=B2 per passenger is recommended. The use of carousels reduces the time and space required for baggage distribution.
In climates such as that of the Mediterranean, air conditioning is essential.
Common service areas should be confortable, well lit and particularly clean as they must be designed for use by elderly and disabled passengers.
A logistics system should be set up so that embarking/disembarking and baggage distribution operations require the passengers to spend as little time as possible in the terminal.
The number of floors and the use of gangways, for direct access from the vessel, are design topics to be studied in each case and should be addressed to passenger convenience rather than introduce unnecessary luxuries.

The recommendations made in the three areas discussed (Outskirts, Port and Terminal) try to answer the second question regarding the conditions necessary to be considered for home - port status.

With regard to the first question on how to attract and maintain cruise traffic in the Mediterranean, we might anwer as follows:
By presenting an offer through our port and operators which is more attractive than that of the competition in terms of both price and quality, especially in the area of the Carribbean;
by carrying out joint promotion of the Mediterranean area, by means of inter-port, tourist, hotel and cultural associations, etc., showing the excellent qualities of the area and maintaining up-to-date information on the development of the sector.
There is an association, Cruise Europa, with 60 members from Northen Europe, which jointly promotes all the ports in that area: by carefully studying the costs of calls at port, pilots, tugs, bunkering, supplies and port tariffs, reducing them in accordance with the number of calls on each line;
by facilitating information to all the ports on the itinerary on any incidents which occur in one port: and finally, by creating around the cruise passenger, a good atmosphere of complete safety.

Similar objectives and contents of the aforesaid Association are pursued by the newly created Med Cruise Association, which will focus its aims in the Mediterranean area.
I want to finalise my intervention outlining the most influential factor in contributing to the success or fall of any venture: the human factor, because of all of us, in this kind of business, we fundamentally work for and to the persons.
Anyway, the norm "value for money" should be establihed.

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