HK is no shore thing for a queen of the high seas

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 September, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong is failing to cash in on the 'incredibly strong' demand for berths as its harbour infrastructure increasingly lags behind regional competitors, a cruise company's executive warned yesterday.

Mainland China had been building many ports to respond to the growth, but the situation would not improve in Hong Kong for at least two years, when a new terminal opened, said Michael Bayley, the executive vice-president of Royal Caribbean International.

'There aren't enough terminals to handle demand. A lot of business is simply standing outside the door,' Bayley said.

The company's new liner will arrive in Hong Kong in October next year.

The Voyager of the Seas can accommodate up to 3,114 guests, and is one of the largest passenger ships in the world.

Only the Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2, the Norwegian Epic and Royal Caribbean's Freedom class and Oasis class ships are larger.

Bayley said the company had to book a berth at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals as it was the only place big enough to accommodate the Voyager.

'The infrastructure lags behind neighbouring places,' he said. 'China is developing many terminals but in Hong Kong we aren't able to secure berths sometimes.

'We're looking forward to the opening of the Kai Tak cruise terminal. We anticipate that when it opens, the entire game plan will be different for market players.'

The company, a Norwegian-American outfit based in Miami, Florida, has seen rapid growth in China: 20 per cent in 2009, 30 per cent in 2010 and an estimated 50 per cent this year, according to Liu Zinan, managing director of the company's China and Asia-Pacific division.

'Hong Kong has always been a highly popular destination for us, given its dynamic mix of cultural attractions and modern city vide,' Bayley said.

The Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and the first berth, which will be able to handle the biggest ocean liners, will open in the middle of 2013. A second berth with similar capacity will open two years later.

About 660,000 travellers arrived on cruises last year, 9 per cent more than in 2009, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

One group in particular is warming to the fun of cruising.

There was a big increase in the number of Indian passengers passing through the city on ships last year - 21,185 in all, nearly double the number from 2009.