Kai Tak terminal attracts interest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2006, 12:00am

Cruise operator in 'constructive' talks with tourism chief

A leading cruise operator has expressed interest in the government's proposal to build a cruise terminal at Kai Tak, following a meeting between visiting company executives and Tourism Commissioner Au King-chi yesterday.

After the meeting, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises president Adam Goldstein was quick to comment on the design and infrastructure of the terminal, which will be in operation as early as 2011 under a government proposal unveiled last month. It will have two berths for ships of over 50,000 tonnes.

'We had a good and constructive conversation over the cruise market and Hong Kong's new terminal,' said Mr Goldstein.

The company is involved in at least four cruise terminals around the world - St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, Barcelona, Miami and Venice.

Asked whether Royal Caribbean was interested in operating or investing in the cruise terminal at the former airport site, general manager Joseph Lam said it was too early to comment.

Mr Goldstein said the government was heading in the right direction with the Kai Tak plan and that 2011 was not too late for the city to have a new terminal.

It was more important to get the 'right' terminal in place by 2011, he said, noting that more berths would be needed to meet future demand in the rapidly growing cruise industry.

'In the next 10 to 15 years, [Hong Kong may] need more than two berths for cruise ships, but it should take one step at a time,' he said.

Mr Goldstein shrugged off criticisms that the lack of first-class hotels and related facilities would undermine Kai Tak's position as a cruise terminal site, noting that its attractiveness would depend on its links with other parts of Hong Kong.

'Hong Kong has great infrastructure,' he said.

Royal Caribbean is planning to sail a cruise ship to Hong Kong in early 2008 and will expand its business to the mainland to capture the opportunities in Asia, especially from the mainland and India.

It said the world's largest cruise ship, Freedom of the Seas, would set sail next year.

But the vessel, which has taken three years to design and build, might not sail to Hong Kong until 2011 as it could carry about 4,300 passengers and weighed 160,000 tonnes - too big for Hong Kong's present cruise ship terminal.