The Port of Lyttelton will be able to handle some of the world’s largest cruise liners when a new $56 million cruise ship berth opens in two and a half years time.
Since the 2011 earthquakes most cruise vessels have bypassed the port and gone to Akaroa instead.
The new berth, opening for the 2019 – 2020 cruise season, is designed to accommodate ships the size of the Oasis of the Seas which can carry 7794 passengers and crew.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said Monday’s announcement represented a massive investment in the future of Christchurch and the wider region.
* Lyttelton cruise ship facilities needed
* Bigger berths needed to buoy up cruise industry growth
“Cruise ships bring a lot of life and economic activity into the city so it is great that Christchurch will have a dedicated facility”, she said.
Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) chief executive Peter Davie said he hoped the port would host between 50 and 70 cruise ships annually.
With the cruise ship industry forecast to grow to $490 million this year, Tourism Minister Paula Bennett welcomed the LPC announcement.
“The cruise industry is incredibly valuable to New Zealand tourism, with the number of passengers growing by 48 per cent in the past five years.
“Without this long-term solution there was a risk larger vessels would choose to bypass Lyttelton and Akaroa, impacting the wider Canterbury region”.
A 2014 report by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT) estimated that returning cruise ships to Lyttelton would earn the region an extra $113m over 10 years.
The lack of a cruise berth at Lyttelton has been a major concern for local tourism operators because of a marked fall in cruise passengers visiting the city.
Ships stopping in Akaroa had to ferry passengers ashore in tenders and they then faced more than an hour’s bus ride to get to Christchurch.
Akaroa’s inability to handle ships with more than 3000 passengers was also an issue for cruise companies as larger ships came on stream.
Industry body Cruise New Zealand had warned that the rate of cruise growth was slowing and said investment in berths that could safely take bigger ships was vital.
Last year the Christchurch City Council wrote to LPC, which it owns, giving clear direction that it expected a berth to be developed.
Following Monday’s announcement the council said that having assessed the business case, it had opted to fund the project through LPC, but it would continue to receive the current level of dividend from the port company.
Cruise New Zealand board member Tony Petrie said although the design had yet to be finalised, all they needed was a safe channel, somewhere tie up safely, and space to process passengers.
“It doesn’t have to be a fancy terminal”.
Royal Caribbean Cruises general manager for Australia and New Zealand Adam Armstrong said the new Lyttelton berth would make Christchurch a more attractive destination for international guest, and it would allow them to travel further afield to Arthur’s Pass and the Waipara vineyards.