The terminal will not just ensure extra berths for the rapidly increasing number of cruise ships seeking to visit the Cork region but will also become a hub for other maritime activities.
The Port of Cork currently boasts the only dedicated cruise ship berth in Ireland — in Cobh.
It can also handle cruise liners at Ringaskiddy’s deepwater quay and the city quays.
The problem is while the cruise season is extending to near all-year-round in Cork, the peak season is becoming crowded.
Port of Cork commercial manager Captain Michael McCarthy said cruise liners traditionally visit Britain and Ireland during March to October, but the season is expanding all the time.
The real peak season, however, is becoming a bit crowded and the port authority wants to ensure it can cater for even more cruise liner business into the future.
Once developed, the new berth will further capitalise on the growth in visiting ships, capture business from visiting yachtsmen and facilitate the creation of a cross-harbour ferry service designed primarily to give tourists departing jam-packed cruise liners easier access to visitor experiences being extensively developed by Cork County Council at Spike Island and Fort Camden, Crosshaven.
Capt McCarthy said his company’s strategy for the next five years is to focus on promoting the region and all it has to offer to potential cruise passengers, as well as expanding its business with an expansion of the deepwater cargo-handling facilities in Ringaskiddy.
“The company’s relationship with the cruise lines is excellent and they are very aware of what the port can handle in terms of ship size,” he said.
“The challenge now is to make sure the cruise companies know exactly what there is to see and do for their passengers while visiting Cork and that is why we market the Cork City and county region at the annual Seatrade Cruise Global held in Hamburg and Med (Mediterranean) conferences.”
Two years ago the Port of Cork invested €1.5m in upgrading the current facilities at Cobh Cruise Liner Terminal.
Works included installation of a number of high-load mooring bollards at the east and west end of the berth which would enable larger ships to docked.
As a result, the Port of Cork can now accommodate the larger liners, or Quantum class ships, without any restrictions.
Capt McCarthy pointed out that the Port of Cork is involved in a number of marketing projects to help promote the region as a cruise destination which have already paid off handsomely.
A huge boost to the marketing campaign will come from the just announced Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards.
“These awards recognise the high level of effort that goes into ensuring that every cruise passenger visiting Cobh has a memorable visit to the region,” said Capt McCarthy.
“Tourism is a crucial sector for national and regional economies and it has the potential to contribute significantly to local economic revival.”
Cobh was once a centre for major industry but that employment has been lost in recent years with the closure of Verlome Dockyard, IFI’s plant at Marino Point, and the Irish Steel/Irish Ispat plant on Haulbowline Island.
Locals know their only hope in the short to medium term is to do their utmost to encourage tourism.
Several local tours have been set up to keep visitors occupied, such as Michael Martin’s Titanic Trail and more recently by Cllr Kieran McCarthy who focuses on the town’s War of Independence history.
“The strategy of Ireland’s tourism agencies, as established by successive governments, which place tourism as a key element of economic strategy,” said Capt McCarthy.
“The delivery of Cork’s Maritime history and Ireland’s Ancient East is vital to our region.”
He pointed out that visitor research finds there are further opportunities for Cork, and Cobh in particular, to grow its tourist potential by providing clarity and an awareness of what they are and what they have to offer.
The port’s commercial manager said Cobh has long been recognised as a major tourism destination for Irish as well as international visitors.
“For instance, Cobh is a major destination port for cruise passengers as well as being the point of embarkation for tourists to Spike Island as well as potentially accommodating daily passenger ferries between Cobh and Fota Island, Crosshaven, Monkstown, Passage West, Ringaskiddy, Haulbowline, and Cork City.” said Capt McCarthy.
In order for the Port of Cork to bring the cruise business to the next level, it will require an additional berth in Cobh.
“We have entered into a partnership with Cork County Council to review the requirements of berth capacity constraints, car and bus parking,” he added.
“It is anticipated that the primary focus of the development at Cobh is to provide a sea bus terminal for maritime tourism in Cork harbour to ensure the visitor experience is first and foremost delivered by providing the right type of quality.
“We envisage it will be a multi- functional marine sports activity and tourism hub where kayaking, sailing, and marine tourism can all operate from.
“Access to the harbour would greatly enhance the area also. Using modern efficient ferries will also improve the experience for the visitor.
“This berth would also have the capacity to accommodate any overflow of cruise vessels from the existing dedicated cruise berth at Cobh’s deepwater quay, which will remain the primary cruise berth for Cork harbour.
“This will assist the marine tourism element by potentially increasing the number of international visitors by an additional 50,000 per year.”
He said visitors who have come to the area will also return with the potential of being able to access the harbour to a greater extent. “This would lead to significant growth in foreign earnings from international business and leisure visitors and an increase in the economic contribution of tourism across the local communities around Cork harbour,” said the port’s commercial manager.