Next year, for the first time, the Port of Cork will welcome cruise liners all year round, with a record 107 ships booked, some of which will dock at a new terminal which will be opened at Marino Point, near Cobh.
The number of passengers and crew arriving in Cork in 2020 is estimated at 260,000, up 17,000 on this year.
Another record will be broken as 10 of the ships visiting Cork next year will have dedicated spare capacity on board to take on Irish passengers who want to experience short cruises around Ireland and Britain.
A Port of Cork spokeswoman said the cruise liners picking up Irish passengers will belong to the Cruise & Maritime Voyages company and will include the ships MS Marco Polo and MS Magellan.
The latter is expected to pick up around 300 Irish passengers when she docks in Cobh for a round-British Isles cruise.
A number of large ships will also make repeat calls to Cork next year. The list is topped by Regal Princess which will call 11 times, bringing 48,180 passengers to Cobh/Cork region. This is the cruise liner that hotelier Francis Brennan joined as guest manager in the recent RTÉ series, All Hands on Deck.
The Port of Cork recently sought expressions of interest from the private sector to help it build a much-needed second deepwater cruise liner terminal in Cobh. “As a result of this, we have received expressions of interest from two companies as potential investors and we are currently examining these proposals,” the spokeswoman said.
She said it was vital that the Port of Cork builds a second terminal to deal with increasing cruise liner traffic.
Some liners still dock in Ringaskiddy, but the Port of Cork wants to phase that out, due to the multi-million euro upgrade of the Ringaskiddy cargo-handling facilities and the need to make it a dedicated container port in the years ahead.
Ringaskiddy is not seen as an ideal location to disembark cruise liner passengers, unlike picturesque Cobh which has a lot of bars, restaurants and a number of visitor attractions.
The Port of Cork spokeswoman said that, in the meantime, the company was hoping to open a new cruise liner berth at Marino Point.
The port authority and Wexford-based Lanber Holdings purchased the former Irish Fertiliser Industries (IFI) 114-acre site in 2017.
“We want to develop a terminal there which will be suitable for smaller cruise ships, and we hope to have it opened by mid-2020,” the spokeswoman said.
She said there was ample space for parking at the site for tour buses to pick up cruise liner passengers and also for shuttle buses to ferry them into nearby Cobh.
In the longer term, the rail spur line link at the site, which connects to the Cork-Cobh track, is likely to be reopened, and this would offer another way to move large volumes of passengers from the terminal to Cobh or the city.
However, Marino Point will be primarily used for the export/ import of bulk cargoes, such as animal feeds.
The further increase in cruise liner traffic will prove a boost for the region’s economy as research has found cruise ship passengers spend an average of €81 during their visits to Cork, while crew spend approximately €29 on average.