Milford Haven port calls for cruise ship expansion

Cruise ship
Image caption Cruise Wales, led by the Welsh government, said it was committed to increasing the numbers of cruise liners coming to Wales

The Port of Milford Haven says it needs a bigger berth to cope with larger cruise liners wanting to visit Wales.

The port has already attracted ships from the United States and Germany this year but only vessels carrying up to 1,200 passengers can dock there.

Larger ships with 3,000 passengers head for Holyhead which has a bigger berth.

Cruise Wales, led by the Welsh government, said it was committed to increasing the numbers of cruise liners and passengers coming to Wales.

It has been aiming to boost the number of cruise liner passengers visiting the country by 25% year-on-year - and next year it expects 38,700 passengers to visit Wales.

In recent years Wales has successfully attracted vessels from most of the major American and European cruise companies.

In 2011, 23,000 passengers on 27 ships landed in Wales. One ship docked in Newport, three in Cardiff, six in Milford Haven, three in Fishguard and 14 in Holyhead.

Last year, six cruises docked in Milford Haven and the port is expected to handle eight this year.

But in comparison, Cork and Dublin in the Republic of Ireland both attract around 100 a year, according to a Cruise Wales report, published in March last year.

Sue Blanchard-Williams, cruise development officer for the Port of Milford Haven, said the majority of cruises usually went to Holyhead because it had a bigger berth.

"We have a very small berth in the waterways of Milford Haven so any cruise vessels coming here over a certain size have to outcast - they anchor in the middle of the waterway and passengers ride a tender in," said Ms Blanchard-Williams.

Local economy

"In the long-term we want to have a big berth and we're trying to see ways of doing that."

She said attracting bigger cruise liners to the town was important for the local economy.

"It draws in people to shops, the passengers spend, the cruises spend as they have to refuel and re-stock," she said.

"At the moment we have a combination of both small and medium-sized cruise vessels. We can go up to about a 1,200 passenger vessel plus crew (600), so we can manage an 1,800 vessel quite comfortably.

"But the really big vessels that Holyhead take accommodate 3,000 passengers. They wouldn't be practical for Milford Haven without the bigger berth.

"The tender operation would be very slow to move all those passengers."

She said vessels from the US, Germany and the UK had visited Milford Haven so far this year.

"Certainly I would like to see more cruise ships coming into Wales," she added.

"But until we get better infrastructure we might just remain on a plateau. Cruise companies are looking for berthing facilities.

"The Welsh government should be helping us to do that."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "Cruise Wales, led by the Welsh government, is committed to increasing the numbers of cruise liners and passengers that come into all ports in Wales in order to benefit local economies and is working with partners in the private and public sector to help facilitate this.

"The chief executive of the Port of Milford Haven is a member of the Cruise Wales ministerial advisory board."

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