European Business Magazine visits the destination of our front cover topic, Dublin, and its burgeoning Port. Dublin Port now receives over half of Ireland’s trade through its doors and is literally mushrooming in size, year on year. It will continue to increase in size with the help of the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment. However, interestingly with this development, not only will it cater for much more trade, it will also allow for bigger cruise liners to dock its largest ships. In November, Dublin Port Company announced that it will be ‘Home Port’ to one of Celebrity Cruises luxury vessels for a mini season to begin in 2018.

We talk to Pat Ward, Head of Corporate Services at Dublin Port Company, about this big new development.

When did the idea of home porting originally surface? Has it been a long-time ambition of Dublin Port, or has it recently surfaced?

Dublin Port Company has been the driving force behind the development of Dublin’s burgeoning cruise tourism business, having worked to attract and build this valuable business for the city for over 30 years. As our cruise tourism business evolved it was clear that Dublin Port was particularly well placed to become an attractive cruise turnaround home port.

As cruise lines build and deploy new ships, new markets are created. In our experience, cruise lines will seek home ports for these new, larger ships and Dublin has strong potential to become an attractive cruise turnaround home port.

The proximity to the city centre of the berths for cruise ships to be built as part of Dublin Port Company’s Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) Project, the proximity of Dublin Port to Dublin Airport, and growing passenger demand for Dublin as a marquee cruise tourism destination, all support this objective.

Home porting is the next step in creating a positive economic impact for the city, enhancing inbound tourism and contributing to the development of the surrounding Docklands area.

With Celebrity Cruising announcing in November that it will ‘home’ port in 2018, can you tell us how long you have been in negotiations with the firm and why they chose Dublin over other European Ports?

We have an excellent working relationship with Celebrity Cruises that has evolved over the years into a partnership that will see luxury liner Celebrity Eclipse based in Dublin next year for a mini season of cruises to Northern Europe.

The cruise industry tends to be supply led and Dublin is Ireland’s most popular port for cruises. Cruise is a dynamic business and largely driven by passenger demand. When cruise companies add Dublin to their itineraries, it’s because passengers want to experience a vibrant European city that is world renowned for its warmth and hospitality. Dublin Port is within striking distance of the city centre, which itself is easy to navigate and explore. The city’s tourism offering is well established and caters for a diverse range of interests. Dublin’s 1,000-year history presents a wealth of history to discover spanning the Victorian, Georgian, medieval and Viking eras. Our bustling food and drinks industry offers everything from fine dining to modern cuisine and traditional pubs, many with live music and entertainment that makes for a truly unique visitor experience. Independent shopping, a strong arts and literary tradition, vibrant summer festival scene, and green spaces with parks and gardens dotted around the city make Dublin a stand-out destination on cruise itineraries the world over.

What are the ambitions of Dublin Port to attract further cruise companies to ‘home’ port? Are there further negotiations and does Dublin Port have sufficient room in addition to Celebrity Cruises?

Developing Dublin Port as a home port is a strategic objective and we see the potential, capacity and appetite to achieve this, building on Celebrity Cruises’ decision to base one of their luxury vessels in the city next year for a mini-season.

The berths for cruise ships being developed as part of Dublin Port Company’s ABR Project will address the capacity issue as longer, deeper vessels enter the market and ships are deployed to emerging turnaround markets for cruise tourism such as Dublin.

What sort of opportunities will this new investment bring and what do you see as the immediate knock on effect to boosting Dublin’s economy?

When Celebrity Cruises confirmed Dublin as a home port to one its 2,800+ guest Solstice-class ships for a mini-season during early summer 2018, it was estimated that over 14,000 people, primarily from the US and Northern European markets,  would start their cruise holiday from Dublin on a Celebrity Cruises ship in 2018.

The initiative is worth an estimated almost €6 million to Dublin and the surrounding area in knock-on economic benefits, and represents the most significant increase in Celebrity Cruises’ investment into Ireland in the history of its global business.

The opportunities that the investment will bring to the city are extensive, providing a platform for Dublin Port to grow homeporting further, welcoming more cruise ships and holidaymakers to Dublin for the first time.

With regards to the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project – this was always to cater for more trade and more room for container ships etc, but was the original plan always to cater for more cruise ships with extra berths? Was that always the intention to expand the cruise business within Dublin Port?

From the outset, Dublin Port Company has stated that the ABR Project would increase Dublin Port’s berth capacities using the port’s existing footprint and deepen the channel and approach to the port so as to accommodate larger freight and passenger ships at multi-purpose berths, and that the multi-purpose berths would cater for a range of uses, including freight and cruise.

Dublin is not traditionally known for its cruising. Given the weather to begin with but can you tell us why you think Dublin Port has had a four-fold increase in Cruise passengers over the last ten years – is there any specific reason for this?

Ireland’s economy is growing at the fastest rate in the EU and the tourism sector has been on a clear upward trajectory for the past number of years. According to recent figures from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ireland enjoyed a record year in 2016 with the number of trips made by overseas visitors during the year reaching 9.5 million. As the capital city, Dublin has benefitted from this uplift and growth can also be seen in cruise tourism to the capital, which is growing at some 20% annually.

Every year for the past three years has been a record year for cruise at Dublin Port. There are several drivers behind Dublin Port’s growing cruise tourism business in recent years. The growth in cruise traffic is a result of Dublin Port’s long-term strategic vision and planning to provide enhanced infrastructure to service the demands of the cruise industry, demonstrate the port’s cruise handling capabilities pending new infrastructure development, and growing Dublin Port’s international reputation as a marquee destination for cruise.

Dublin Port Company has worked hard to achieve this by attracting new markets and cruise lines. For example, Disney cruises came to Dublin for the first time in 2016. We also hosted the Cruise Europe Conference in 2016 and this gave us the opportunity to showcase the port and the city to over 200 attendees from the major cruise lines worldwide. This really helped put Dublin firmly on the map as Ireland’s premier port of choice for cruise

In our experience, the weather is rarely if ever a deterrent for tourism to Dublin, or Ireland for that matter. Passengers want to experience the welcoming, friendly nature of our people and the unique blend of visitor attractions our vibrant city offers.

With the new line , what are the expected number of increased cruise line passengers for 2018?

The early indications are that 2018 will be another record-breaking year for cruise tourism to Dublin Port, with in excess of 200,000 passengers and crew expected to visit the city.

Are there any further expected initiatives with Dublin Port and Cruise Dublin?

With Cruise Dublin, we are focused on working collectively with members who are drawn from the city’s leading retail outlets, visitor experiences and tourism bodies, including Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and Fáilte Ireland, to further support businesses in the capital looking to develop their offering in tandem with the future growth of Dublin as a marquee cruise destination. This includes growing our membership and the quality of the passenger experience. The Cruise Dublin Visitor Card is central to this, providing special concession prices and privileges across members’ offerings, from sporting and cultural to leisure and pampering.

The next phase of work for Cruise Dublin will be to examine ways of partnering with Dublin Airport and the airlines to identify synergies and develop a strategic approach to “Fly Cruise Dublin”; how do we enhance the passenger experience for those flying to Dublin, transferring to Dublin Port and starting their cruise from the capital.

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