Dredging delay blamed as Princess Cruises pulls plug on Falmouth after 20 years

Dredging delay blamed as Princess Cruises pulls plug on Falmouth after 20 years

Dredging delay blamed as Princess Cruises pulls plug on Falmouth after 20 years

First published in News

Princess Cruises has pulled the plug on Falmouth as a port of call for its cruise ships after 20 years of visiting the town, writes The Packet's In Port expert David Barnicoast.

Over a decade of prolonged and protracted environmental battles surrounding the capital dredging of Falmouth harbour to accommodate larger vessels, including mega cruise ships, has left Cornwall’s largest port in a state of economic limbo.

Meanwhile its European rivals take full advantage of the burgeoning cruise industry to improve facilities and boost their own economies.

The scientific results of the dredging survey conducted last year are with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) who will ultimately decide whether or not to give Falmouth Harbour Commissioners consent to go ahead with a dredging programme. Any decision from the MMO is not likely to come until the end of the summer or early autumn.

In the meantime, Falmouth is the poor relation compared to other European destinations reaping the benefits of investment in port infrastructure.

Princess Cruises launches its 2014 European cruise programme next month when five ships from its fleet embark on 94 departures on 48 itineraries to more than 120 destinations.

However, Falmouth does not feature as a port of call in any of the cruises, despite the fact that Princess Cruises have been a much-valued customer for more than 20 years.

Initially, Falmouth hosted the Island Princess, Pacific Princess and the Royal Princess ships in the 1990s but with the arrival of the mega-cruise ships at 300 metres in length the number of calls decreased.

This year, Princess Cruises has pulled the plug on Falmouth as the 100,000-ton Emerald Princess makes her re-positioning cruise in April leaving Fort Lauderdale for the UK calling at the Azores Islands, Cobh, Dublin, Zeebrugge and Le Havre. She will be based in Southampton for sailings to the Mediterranean, northern Europe, and the Canary Islands.

In past years, Falmouth has hosted the mega cruise ships from the fleet on their transatlantic re-positioning cruises to and from the USA. Anchoring south of Black Rock, ships with up to 3,500 passengers on each call had to use tenders to put visitors ashore.

The world’s major cruise lines find tendering passengers ashore a logistical nightmare but for some ports such as Guernsey other important factors enhance their reputation as a cruise port. Despite having no designated cruise berth, the absence of VAT in Guernsey is a major factor when leading cruise companies design their European itineraries.

Guernsey is northern Europe’s most visited transit port and has seen a bumper year for cruises in 2013. Eighty-four cruise ships tendered in the capital, St Peter Port, throughout 2013; a phenomenal increase of 22 cruise ships from 2012. The island also saw a 54 per cent year-on-year increase in landing passengers from cruise ships with 110,040 people going ashore compared to 60,486 in 2012.

This year is set to be another strong period for cruising in Guernsey with 90 vessels already scheduled to call on the island, and robust forward bookings being made.

Cobh in Ireland will see 54 ships calling this year with many of them sailing past Falmouth carrying huge numbers of passengers. Most of the leading cruise companies support Cobh as the harbour board has invested heavily in new deep-water berths.

Falmouth is doing well in the lower end of the market attracting smaller luxury ships with an average passenger capacity of 600. This year should see 25,000 passengers coming here if the ships are almost full to capacity. German passengers account for more than half of the total coming to the port this year.

Industry pundits reckon if the port provided a deep-water berth to accommodate larger ships, within five years Falmouth could achieve 100,000 passengers per year.

Some European ports have already firmly grasped the initiative by joining forces to promote themselves to the major cruise companies. Cruise Atlantic Europe comprises eight ports in five countries of the Atlantic front, Lisbon, Porto (Leixões), A Coruña, Bilbao, Brest, St Malo, Dover and Cork.

One only has to look at the location of the ports to see that Falmouth would fit in nicely with Dover, Brest and Cork to enhance cruise ship itineraries. Many CAE ports can accommodate the 300-metre long ships at alongside berths.

Comments (12)

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3:43pm Thu 6 Mar 14

WANDERERS says...

Let Falmouth rot then , disgusted with you all , do gooders PLEASE LEAVE FALMOUTH NOW !
Let Falmouth rot then , disgusted with you all , do gooders PLEASE LEAVE FALMOUTH NOW ! WANDERERS
  • Score: 14

4:16pm Thu 6 Mar 14

Gillian R.Z. Martin says...

This is really sad news, Falmouth needs the shipping trade for the security of the dock workers employment, the local businesses and economy.
This is really sad news, Falmouth needs the shipping trade for the security of the dock workers employment, the local businesses and economy. Gillian R.Z. Martin
  • Score: 28

6:21pm Thu 6 Mar 14

Cyber Pasty says...

Surprise surprise. Hope the they are pleased with themselves.
Surprise surprise. Hope the they are pleased with themselves. Cyber Pasty
  • Score: 23

4:31pm Fri 7 Mar 14

ProfessorGreen says...

This article is very poorly written and researched. Nowhere is the headline supported by the article. There is no comment or verification from Princess Cruises as to the lack of dredging being the reason for their ships not using Falmouth. That may very well be the reason, but if it is being cited as such, any journalist worth his salt would verify this, otherwise it is simply propaganda. "Industry pundits reckon if the port provided a deep-water berth to accommodate larger ships, within five years Falmouth could achieve 100,000 passengers per year." Really…which industry pundits? On record?
This article is very poorly written and researched. Nowhere is the headline supported by the article. There is no comment or verification from Princess Cruises as to the lack of dredging being the reason for their ships not using Falmouth. That may very well be the reason, but if it is being cited as such, any journalist worth his salt would verify this, otherwise it is simply propaganda. "Industry pundits reckon if the port provided a deep-water berth to accommodate larger ships, within five years Falmouth could achieve 100,000 passengers per year." Really…which industry pundits? On record? ProfessorGreen
  • Score: -28

9:11pm Fri 7 Mar 14

seacom says...

As the Prof says poorly researched article, what if the reason for cancelling visits were a 24 hour ship repair yard next door .Maybe noise, ,nightlighting windborne debri or smell could be factors in the decision.A statement from the company would certainly clarify things.
As the Prof says poorly researched article, what if the reason for cancelling visits were a 24 hour ship repair yard next door .Maybe noise, ,nightlighting windborne debri or smell could be factors in the decision.A statement from the company would certainly clarify things. seacom
  • Score: -16

9:45am Sun 9 Mar 14

Ansome says...

Whilst I agree there may be a number of factors why Princess Cruises have come to this decision the procrastination on the dredging and their passengers having to be landed by small boats must have played a part.

Given that the dredging of the harbour has happened for decades, of course it's always possible that the Maerl is there because the harbour has been dredged, (perfectly plausible so I'm told by a couple of marine scientists!!)

If the harbour is dredged, the location for cruise and vessels for repair is more open, so some of the noise issues may be avoidable, or certainly able to be reduced.
Whilst I agree there may be a number of factors why Princess Cruises have come to this decision the procrastination on the dredging and their passengers having to be landed by small boats must have played a part. Given that the dredging of the harbour has happened for decades, of course it's always possible that the Maerl is there because the harbour has been dredged, (perfectly plausible so I'm told by a couple of marine scientists!!) If the harbour is dredged, the location for cruise and vessels for repair is more open, so some of the noise issues may be avoidable, or certainly able to be reduced. Ansome
  • Score: 17

10:55am Sun 9 Mar 14

seacom says...

Certainly dredging would increase the depth but the dry docks would then have to be lowered and extended to take larger vessels.Given the decrease in size of the dockyard i doubt this would be economically viable with competition from abroad sucking away at available work.The outcome it seems to me is cruise liners and marina versus industry with the latter being mainly seasonal.
Certainly dredging would increase the depth but the dry docks would then have to be lowered and extended to take larger vessels.Given the decrease in size of the dockyard i doubt this would be economically viable with competition from abroad sucking away at available work.The outcome it seems to me is cruise liners and marina versus industry with the latter being mainly seasonal. seacom
  • Score: -9

6:32pm Mon 10 Mar 14

C Smith says...

Professor Green, you may consider the article to be poor journalism, but it has no case to make that is not very well known already. After an exhaustive and lengthy piece of work by many, the Docks Masterplan proposing the dredging option (NOT the non dredging option please note) was put to consultation and it achieved an astonishing 93% approval rating. Recently a statistically robust survey of 600 local people on a straight dredge: yes/no? question raised that approval ratting to 97%! And this after a very noisy and aggressive campaign by a handful of people who promoted their arguments against dredging nationwide.The Docks, Liners, ship repair and naval capacity are vital to Cornwall's economy. To threaten their viability in any way just to avoid dredging
Professor Green, you may consider the article to be poor journalism, but it has no case to make that is not very well known already. After an exhaustive and lengthy piece of work by many, the Docks Masterplan proposing the dredging option (NOT the non dredging option please note) was put to consultation and it achieved an astonishing 93% approval rating. Recently a statistically robust survey of 600 local people on a straight dredge: yes/no? question raised that approval ratting to 97%! And this after a very noisy and aggressive campaign by a handful of people who promoted their arguments against dredging nationwide.The Docks, Liners, ship repair and naval capacity are vital to Cornwall's economy. To threaten their viability in any way just to avoid dredging C Smith
  • Score: 15

10:37pm Mon 10 Mar 14

seacom says...

If ship repair is vital and naval capacity certainly a national necessity why is the private sector and ministry of defence not willing to fund or contribute toward the cost of dredging? How accurate a gauge is a small scale survey of local people of which most of the population were probably unaware of and unable to participate in ? Surely those most likely to gain should be investing heavily and local government funded by tax not bearing the brunt as suggested in the past.
If ship repair is vital and naval capacity certainly a national necessity why is the private sector and ministry of defence not willing to fund or contribute toward the cost of dredging? How accurate a gauge is a small scale survey of local people of which most of the population were probably unaware of and unable to participate in ? Surely those most likely to gain should be investing heavily and local government funded by tax not bearing the brunt as suggested in the past. seacom
  • Score: -15

3:14pm Tue 11 Mar 14

Teejay says...

It seems we're the only port anywhere that opposes dredging. Harbours everywhere are being dredged without being frustrated by a minority of blinkered environmentalists.

ProfessorGreen cites propaganda over facts, that's his opinion. But there's just as much propaganda and absence of fact about the results dredging would have on the maerl.

Seacom; if you knew anything about cruising you'd know many ports visited by cruise ships are in or near working dockyards. For those not familiar with dockyards it can actually be of add interest.
Your next point about dock size is also incorrect. Many newer ships go for longer periods between drydocking but they still need other work and repairs which can be done alongside if the berth is deep enough.
Competition sucks away work because the competition get funding and provide facilities including deep water berths.

Another point about cruising, often overlooked, is that can be viewed as an appetiser. People spend a day somewhere off a cruise ship, but if they like what they see they come for a longer stay adding to tourism in our region.
Regarding investment, the private sector, i.e. shipping companies won't invest, they'll either bring their trade if they can or they'll take it somewhere with better facilities and dredged harbours. .

The MoD brings in £millions of work each year, politically it's prudent to spread work around the country. But they'll only do business where their needs are met.

And as announced today, Devonport can continue dredging and, bizarrely, are allowed to dump its spoils in a newly declared MCZ. That bit might not be right, but if we can't take MoD vessels in future we'll lose them to Plymouth.

The longer it's delayed, the worse it will get, until the port is completely silted up in which case the maerl will lose its habitat anyway.
It seems we're the only port anywhere that opposes dredging. Harbours everywhere are being dredged without being frustrated by a minority of blinkered environmentalists. ProfessorGreen cites propaganda over facts, that's his opinion. But there's just as much propaganda and absence of fact about the results dredging would have on the maerl. Seacom; if you knew anything about cruising you'd know many ports visited by cruise ships are in or near working dockyards. For those not familiar with dockyards it can actually be of add interest. Your next point about dock size is also incorrect. Many newer ships go for longer periods between drydocking but they still need other work and repairs which can be done alongside if the berth is deep enough. Competition sucks away work because the competition get funding and provide facilities including deep water berths. Another point about cruising, often overlooked, is that can be viewed as an appetiser. People spend a day somewhere off a cruise ship, but if they like what they see they come for a longer stay adding to tourism in our region. Regarding investment, the private sector, i.e. shipping companies won't invest, they'll either bring their trade if they can or they'll take it somewhere with better facilities and dredged harbours. [competition sucking work away]. The MoD brings in £millions of work each year, politically it's prudent to spread work around the country. But they'll only do business where their needs are met. And as announced today, Devonport can continue dredging and, bizarrely, are allowed to dump its spoils in a newly declared MCZ. That bit might not be right, but if we can't take MoD vessels in future we'll lose them to Plymouth. The longer it's delayed, the worse it will get, until the port is completely silted up in which case the maerl will lose its habitat anyway. Teejay
  • Score: 12

7:37pm Tue 11 Mar 14

seacom says...

I am no marine expert but from what i have read about maerl and the beds it lies in can be thousands of years old and very slow growing if left undisturbed.So therefore dredging would probably be detrimental probably why Falmouth Harbour Commission banned its extraction in 2005.And still the question remains how dredging would be funded and by whom.
I am no marine expert but from what i have read about maerl and the beds it lies in can be thousands of years old and very slow growing if left undisturbed.So therefore dredging would probably be detrimental probably why Falmouth Harbour Commission banned its extraction in 2005.And still the question remains how dredging would be funded and by whom. seacom
  • Score: -6

4:09pm Wed 12 Mar 14

ElevenEleven says...

ProfessorGreen wrote:
This article is very poorly written and researched. Nowhere is the headline supported by the article. There is no comment or verification from Princess Cruises as to the lack of dredging being the reason for their ships not using Falmouth. That may very well be the reason, but if it is being cited as such, any journalist worth his salt would verify this, otherwise it is simply propaganda. "Industry pundits reckon if the port provided a deep-water berth to accommodate larger ships, within five years Falmouth could achieve 100,000 passengers per year." Really…which industry pundits? On record?
A few years ago Falmouth was taking over 100,000 passengers per year, but presumably because of the increase in size of ships which are not able to dock, this has fallen to around 20,000 this year.

Also wonder what our local MP is doing about this? She seems to have gone pretty quiet. Wake up Sarah, there's an election next year!
[quote][p][bold]ProfessorGreen[/bold] wrote: This article is very poorly written and researched. Nowhere is the headline supported by the article. There is no comment or verification from Princess Cruises as to the lack of dredging being the reason for their ships not using Falmouth. That may very well be the reason, but if it is being cited as such, any journalist worth his salt would verify this, otherwise it is simply propaganda. "Industry pundits reckon if the port provided a deep-water berth to accommodate larger ships, within five years Falmouth could achieve 100,000 passengers per year." Really…which industry pundits? On record?[/p][/quote]A few years ago Falmouth was taking over 100,000 passengers per year, but presumably because of the increase in size of ships which are not able to dock, this has fallen to around 20,000 this year. Also wonder what our local MP is doing about this? She seems to have gone pretty quiet. Wake up Sarah, there's an election next year! ElevenEleven
  • Score: 1

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