Portsmouth cruise ships: Days spent in city port are twice previous record - leading to a £43m boost

CRUISE operations at Portsmouth's port are set to hit 'historic' levels this year despite challenges caused by the pandemic - with the industry now thought to be worth £43m a year to the city.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 4:55 am
Scarlet Lady under a broody sky. Picture by Neil Campbell.

Record numbers are forecast in 2021, including a doubling in the number of days cruise ships spend alongside and the linked economic boost to the city, according to a report.

And an independent economic assessment by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the port's management, estimated the city's cruise industry as being worth £205m annually to the country over the next 40 years.

Over the same period, extension works to the terminal are expected to boost the Portsmouth City Council area economy by £43m a year.

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Cruise ship, Scarlet Lady leaving Portsmouth on Friday 3rd September 2021 View from Round Tower, Old Portsmouth Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Port director, Mike Sellers, who wrote the report summing up the port's progress, said work to 'continue the upwards trend' was being carried out, including the extension of its terminal.

'While this has been a difficult couple of years for the industry, what we have seen is real creativity from cruise lines in how they operate, which has included operating in different ways for the UK market,' he said. 'Our ambition has been to consistently grow within the small to medium-sized market and this strategy is proving to be successful.'

The report, which was considered by the council's cabinet on Tuesday, reveals the port expects to reach more than 130 days' of cruise ships alongside this year.

Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady passes the Spinnaker Tower Picture: Dave Aird

The previous record was 65 and this will also be broken in 2022 with 70 days already booked.

On top of this, the eight maiden calls made to the city - including those of TUI’s Marella and Marella Explorer 2, Golden Horizon, and Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady - is the largest number seen in a single year.

And the port hosted its first naming ceremony in July, with the christening of Saga’s Spirit of Adventure. The following month it managed three cruise ships at one time.

Mike Sellers, director of Portsmouth International Port, taken on board Viking's Venus on May 10, 2021, showing the new cruise liner berth.

'The port is rapidly becoming the first choice for the luxury cruise market,' the report said. 'The terminal transformation will provide the facilities for this market and will create jobs and increase [its] economic contribution.'

Speaking after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the industry was 'crucial' to the city.

'It is refreshing to say that this year has been hugely successful for the port and puts them in a great position to continue growing,' he said. 'The figures we’ve seen from independent experts are huge and so are the benefits for the city.'

He added that each cruise ship turnaround was worth about £1.5 million to the city through a combination of direct and indirect effects.

Council leader, Gerald Vernon-Jackson in front of the cruise ship, Scarlet Lady at Portsmouth International Port Picture: Habibur Rahman

Cabinet members also gave their backing to plans to increase the provision of shore power at the port for both cruise ships and ferries. Noble Caledonian has already agreed to retrofit its ships to be compatible.