The Shanghai government is considering a proposal to invest up to 10 billion yuan (about HK$9.37 billion) over the next five years building a 'cruise city' on the Shanghai waterfront to receive luxury liners and tap a new market among mainland tourists.
The plan, proposed by Malaysia's Star Cruises, calls for the development of an area of two million square metres north of the Bund, the waterfront along the Huangpu river.
It would include a 1,200-metre long pier and water eight metres deep, where four to six liners could dock at the same time, the Sanlian Shenghuo magazine said in its latest issue.
If the city government approves the plan and construction begins this year, the facility could be ready by 2008.
Currently, Shanghai trails far behind Hong Kong and Singapore in the cruise business, with 47,000 visitors entering the city from such vessels in 2001, compared with 2.4 million in Hong Kong. Sars has had a dramatic impact on the regional cruise business, but Hong Kong has looked into expanding its capacity in the past.
In the past, critics have said Hong Kong lacked sufficient cruise berth capacity. About three years ago, Cheung Kong's plan to build a second cruise ship terminal in the residential district of North Point was knocked back following strong criticism from local residents, environmentalists and rival cruise terminal operator Wharf.
Mainland citizens who want to join cruises now have to go first to Hong Kong, Singapore or other destinations, adding significantly to the cost.
Star Cruises wants to offer tours originating in the mainland. It has applied for rights to operate cruises from Tianjin to South Korea via Qingdao and Tianjin to Dalian and South Korea. Prices have been set at levels similar to the price of tour group holidays to South Korea.
In its application, Star Cruises argued that Shanghai has an ideal geographic location, with liners able to reach South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong within 48 hours, and also able to run domestic routes to Dalian in the north and Hainan in the south. The 'cruise city' would both bring in foreign tourists and open a new market to transport Chinese travellers, it said.
The 'city' could attract more than one million tourists a year and, with foreigners spending an average US$230 a day in Shanghai, it could bring in more than US$200 million a year to Shanghai. To investigate the feasibility of the proposal, think-tanks under the State Council have sent teams to Malaysia and Miami, the global centre of the cruise industry.
Globally, 240 such cruise ships carried 10 million people in 2001, double the five million in 1992, and are expected to carry 13.6 million by 2005.