Dearth of berths stops HK cashing in on cruise market, says operator

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 February, 2008, 12:00am

Limited berthing facilities in Hong Kong are preventing the city's cruise industry from fostering and realising the growth potential of the cruise holiday market in Asia, a major ship operator has warned.

'Hong Kong is so restrictive today in its berthing capabilities for cruise ships. We have had to work so hard to ensure Rhapsody has an acceptable berth on every sailing date, even with the co-operation of the authorities. It's clear that Hong Kong is not taking advantage of its potential as a cruise hub,' Royal Caribbean International president Adam Goldstein said.

Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas will be based in Hong Kong for two months from Thursday before moving to Shanghai for another two-month stint. It has been offering cruises from Singapore since December.

The slightly smaller 2,000-passenger Legend of the Seas will replace Rhapsody of the Seas starting from the next winter season. Rhapsody of the Seas, which can cater for 2,400 passengers, is currently the largest cruise ship to be based in Asia.

In Hong Kong, passenger ships dock at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui and will have to wait until at least 2012 for expanded terminal facilities at Kai Tak to open.

'Rhapsody is a very large ship for home ports in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. One of the reasons we're moving Legend, which is the smallest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, is because she is of a size that allows her to berth at all of the current cruise terminals in the region,' Mr Goldstein said.

'So our company is absolutely open to bringing bigger and newer ships to the region but there must be infrastructure investment that brings the new generation of terminals and berths to the region.'

Mr Goldstein said Royal Caribbean was not involved in the government's tender exercise for the Kai Tak terminal project but was evaluating the situation very carefully. The tender closes on March 7.

'We're not excluding any possibility. We're just trying to understand who are the developers ... and how we could have a beneficial relationship with one or more of them,' he said.

Although it is difficult to gauge the impact of the new terminal, Mr Goldstein believes there is the possibility of an increase in business.

'If one assumes that between now and 2012 that the macroeconomic situation of Asia continues to be positive and that the wealth generation continues to build ... then I would say the possibility for a significant jump is plausible,' he said.