Last week’s dark clouds had a silver lining for Luganville, as a major cruise ship safely docked at the controversial wharf.
Cyclone Fehi didn’t cause much a ruckus on land, but it caused widespread disruptions to cruise ship traffic across the south Pacific.
It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, though, and the people of Santo managed to turn bad fortune into good when the Royal Caribbean liner the Voyager of the Seas managed to berth safely at the Luganville wharf. This was her maiden voyage to the northern port. The ship has a 4000 passenger capacity, and carries up to 1200 crew.
The wharf itself was the subject of some controversy, with a number of stakeholders claiming that lack of transparency by the Shanghai Construction Group, who built the wharf, played a key role in the sudden reduction in cruise ship arrivals last year. The Vanuatu Business Review published an extensive feature on this topic In October last year.
This week, an SCG representative replied to recent criticisms of the company, claiming that the wharf is now “safer than before for cruise ships and other types of ship to berth. And its specification fully meets the mooring requirements of those large ships.”
The company also stated, “After the new wharf platform was completed, more than 30 cruise ships berthed safely at Luganville Wharf. Carnival Spirit, Emerald Princess and Golden Princess are the largest among them, with their lengths exceed 290 meters and Gross Registered Tonnage ranged from 85,000 to 110,000”.
One thing is certain: Luganville came to life last weekend, and everybody welcomed the return of cruise ships.
John Tonner, Managing Director of South sea Shipping, which facilitates cruise ship access to Vanuatu ports of call, told the Daily Post, “Bollards were enough for an emergency berthing, and a review will continue to see if additional bollards are required.”
The Voyager’s sister ship, Explorer of the Seas also made port call in Luganville on Sunday. This ship also has a capacity of 4000 passengers.
Tonner told the Daily Post that the Luganville cruise committee and local stakeholders working as one, each visit was a resounding success.
He went on to report that the captain of the Voyager of the Seas said he thought Luganville’s wharf was among the “best in the South Pacific and looks forward to passing on the great news of her berth.”
Cruise Ship arrival are scheduled to decline from 36 visits in 2017 to 12 in 2018. This was attributed by cruise lines to uncertainty about the berthing process, which led the companies to err on the side of caution.
South Sea Shipping’s John Tonner characterised the arrival of these 2 large cruise ships in short order as “a very welcomed surprise.”
Townspeople reports the shops were full, and no disputes or disturbances were reported among bus and taxi drivers.
One sour note in the visit: Some tiles in the new terminal building floor were ruled unsafe and work will need to be done to fix the safety issue.