Greater Victoria Harbour Authority hails 12-year deal with Norwegian Cruise Lines

Calling it another step toward establishing Victoria as a home port for cruise ships, the head of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority said a new long-term deal with Norwegian Cruise Lines is a sign the city has evolved into a key player in the industry.

Ian Robertson, chief executive of the harbour authority, said the 12-year deal guarantees Norwegian a Pier A South berth at Ogden Point’s Victoria Cruise Terminal through 2030, providing certainty for all parties.

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“It gives us long-term certainty which is fantastic because usually cruise lines go year-to-year in terms of booking commitments,” said Robertson, adding it could spur capital investment and allow businesses that offer services and provisions to the industry to do long-term planning.

It also opens the door a little wider to having conversations about Victoria becoming a home port for a cruise line, he said.

The habour authority has set what it calls an aggressive goal of having a small or mid-sized cruise ship call Victoria home by 2020.

As a home port to one or two smaller cruise lines, Victoria could attract pre- and post-cruise tourism business and provide provisioning that could be worth $2 million per ship per excursion.

Robertson said the hurdle they have yet to cross is establishing customs pre-clearance facilities at the port.

“We’re moving ahead on that quite well,” he said of discussions that also involve stakeholders at the Belleville Street Terminal, home to the Clipper and Coho.

Long-term, Robertson is hoping for pre-clearance at both Ogden Point and Belleville, but he can see securely busing passengers from a shared customs facility on the Inner Harbour.

Robertson said the deal with Norwegian is a marker for the habour authority, suggesting the port has established itself as a key player on the coast.

“The cruise lines recognize that Victoria is strategic to their presence in the Alaska cruise market and that we play a significant role and are important to their business,” he said.

Victoria is Canada’s busiest cruise-ship port, and expects 264 ship arrivals and more than 700,000 cruise passengers to arrive in Victoria through Ogden Point between April and October.

Robertson said the Norwegian deal was a year in the making and he would like to sign more long-term deals.

“A goal of mine is to get as much certainty for the community and for those that benefit from cruise,” he said, adding there’s no danger of tying the harbour authority’s hands in the process.

“I’m not concerned [about having less flexibility] right now because we still have quite a bit of capacity at Ogden Point,” he said, noting there are no ships scheduled on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and there are still daytime slots on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the cruise season. “I’m not concerned that agreements of this sort will prevent us from welcoming new entries to this market.”

Norwegian has deployed Norwegian Bliss for Alaska cruises in the past and will add Norwegian Joy this season. The cruise line will bring close to 30 per cent of all cruise passengers to Victoria this year.

The company will provision locally produced goods, including beer from Phillips Brewing Company and select produce and seafood during each call to Victoria.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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