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Biggest season for cruise ships anticipated by burgeoning CentrePort

Wellington’s cruise ship season started this week, with an anticipated 50,000 extra passengers expected to make it the biggest yet, according to CentrePort.

Radiance of the Seas berthed on Tuesday, opening the season, and the 330-metre Majestic Princess arrived on Wednesday with 4,900 passengers and crew, playing the theme from The Love Boat on its horn.

Majestic Princess is one of four cruise ships making a first-time visit to Wellington this season. A total of 110 ships is expected over the course of the season, with about 320,000 passengers and crew on board.

Last year, the capital attracted 82 ships, but Wellington’s popularity as a cruise destination is increasing. In July it was named one of the top five cruise destinations in Australasia for the first time in the 2018 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards. And with cruise companies building more ships – and larger ones, Wellington should expect to see growth continue.

CentrePort is working with transport, tourism and retail operators to satisfy demand, with surges expected during the 24 “double days” during the season when two ships berth at the same time.

Passengers mainly flock to four main tour attractions – Te Papa, the Cable Car, Zealandia and the Weta Cave – but the number of shuttle stops in the CBD would also be increased.

The rise in cruise ship visits is further welcome news for CentrePort, which recently posted a strong result for the 2017/18 financial year, boosted by several record cargo volumes.

Log volumes were up 23 percent, the largest amount moved by the port in a single year, vehicle volumes hit a new high of 28,099 units, and for the first time back-to-back handling of one million tonnes of petroleum were achieved in successive years. Container volumes rebounded strongly, up 64 per cent as exporters/importers and shipping lines returned following the Kaikoura quake disruptions.

These helped drive up CentrePort’s underlying net profit after tax, and before fair value and earthquake impact adjustments of $11.8m, to a 37 per cent increase from $8.6m the previous year.

CentrePort achieved this despite ongoing operational constraints as a result of the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. These included two ship-to-shore cranes being out of action for the first two and a half months of the financial year, and significant ongoing remediation and repair work.

“The strategies put in place to get the business up to speed have worked,” said CentrePort chair Lachie Johnstone.

“While remediation and repairs continue, operationally the port is in most instances exceeding pre-quake levels. CentrePort is back in growth mode.” he said.