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Tuesday Dec 11, 2012

Cape Town to get new terminal for cruise ships

Transnet has finally given the go-ahead for building a dedicated berthing terminal for cruise liners in Table Bay harbour.

The MSC Sinfonia cruise liner has been unable to dock due to high winds.

There has been a concerted push from city and provincial authorities for some years for such a terminal.

In January the Department of Home Affairs caused a storm of protest when it imposed a ban on cruise liners exceeding 200m in length berthing at the V&A Waterfront, citing safety concerns.

Instead liners were required to berth in the Duncan Dock at Table Bay Harbour which shipping agents and tourism figures lamented was an inconvenience, and was unfriendly to well-heeled travellers on the liners. This put Cape Town in a bad light compared to other destinations, they said.

According to Tourism Update, ports authority spokesman Coen Birkenstock said the new terminal, to be completed within the next two years, will feature an arrival and departure facility as well as restrooms.

Birkenstock said from next month the authority would finalise the process of identifying suitable investors and operators. He said the terminal would possibly encourage more international cruise liner operators to include Cape Town on their itineraries.

Yesterday Western Cape Economic Development MEC Alan Winde welcomed the authority's decision, saying it would potentially attract more visitors. He said last year, 19 visiting cruise liners brought approximately 11 144 passengers to the province which sustained a number of jobs in the tourism industry.

"While we have not yet been able to return to docking at the Waterfront, the facilities within E-berth are being significantly improved," Winde said.

Meanwhile for the second time in as many weeks, luxury cruise liner MSC Sinfonia encountered difficulty at sea.

Last week the ship was forced to cancel a trip to Namibia after it was unable to leave the harbour due to extreme wind conditions.

This time, the vessel which had been returning from a three-day trip to Mossel Bay could not dock at the harbour as a result of gale-force winds. About 1 400 passengers were forced to stay aboard the ship for about eight hours.

Independent Newspapers photographer Ian Landsberg, who was aboard, said they were meant to disembark at 7am yesterday.

"But as we went past Clifton we were told we would not be able to disembark because the harbour was closed. For most of the day, the ship has been stuck between Robben Island and the Cape Town Harbour."

The vessel would only be allowed to dock today if the wind subsides.

Cape Times


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