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OPINION: Cork businesses not seizing opportunity

July 18th, 2016 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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THE Port of Cork rightly considers the success of its Cruise Liner Terminal in Cobh, and the scheduled visits of 58 liners during this summer and autumn, as the best thing since sliced pan. It’s potentially worth €3.6 million to the Cobh-Cork area.

But, there’s a downside: The Port’s marketing gurus caution that city traders are losing out by not making the best use of the crock of gold that’s arriving on their doorsteps, namely 102,217 passengers last year and 40,000 crew, who are all keen to spend the bobs.

The Port of Cork, which has already spent €1.5 million upgrading its Cobh terminal, takes the line that while it makes money by encouraging liners to visit Cobh, the biggest beneficiary should be the region, not the port. ‘When liners call here, that’s the Port’s job done; it’s then up to Cork businesses to seize the opportunity, such as developing a brochure promoting the city’s attractions and events. For instance the development of a food-tasting and music-themed tour is worth exploring,’ they say.

For several months, it has been urging traders to develop a co-ordinated plan and to collectively plug the city’s highlights – with somewhat disappointing results.

But, while Cork traders have been slow to seize the opportunities on offer, the liner companies have been doing their bit to market the region – to judge by the fact that, even before the liners arrive in Cobh, many passengers have booked excursions to places such as Blarney, Kinsale, Midleton Distillery, the Rock of Cashel, and Youghal. 

 

Sea monsters

Ironically, although Cobh commercial interests endorse the popularisation of Cork city among the liner tourists, they look askance at efforts to hoover up passengers before they have the chance to savour the town’s delights. For instance, Cobh has much to offer the historically minded voyager, thanks to its Titanic, Lusitania, and emigration heritage.

So, fair dues to the Port of Cork for having increased cruise liner traffic to Cobh from five or six vessels a year to a figure that’s now well above 60. And, as well, the far-seeing €1.6m revamp of its cruise terminal in Cobh enabled the Port to cater for ships of any size; even for the new quantum class cruise ships such as the 1,188ft-long ‘Harmony of the Seas,’ a monster that can carry 6,780 passengers and 2,100 crew.  

The Port of Cork is confident that its Cobh terminal will increase cruise calls to 75 a year over the next three years. Incidentally, it’s an achievement that has a knock-on effect for Bantry – this year resulting in MV ‘Albatross’ calling to Bantry before docking in Cobh.

But, whereas in Cobh and Cork, it’s ‘ship ahoy, hello sailor and all hands on deck’, in Britain the prospects for the liner trade are not so rosy.  Sad to relate, an environmental storm that’s hotting up in the courts could seriously damage the liner trade to that country and have repercussions on Cork’s fledgling endeavours.

 

Massive pollution

British newspapers have been reporting that residents in Greenwich are up in arms over the danger of diesel emissions from docked liners.  A high court challenge to a plan for a new wharf argues that toxic fumes from the liners’ giant engines are breaching legal limits, worsening London’s air pollution and preventing the city from reaching its EU legal limits on nitrogen dioxide pollution, which causes thousands of respiratory deaths every year.    

Environmentalists see the new generation of cruise ships as floating cities that burn hundreds of tonnes of fuel a day – in particular from the giant Quantum class (the ones that now can berth in Cobh).

The save-the-planet people contend that air pollution emissions from such ships are growing. Greenwich environmentalists and residents claim that if things are left as they are, ‘by 2020 shipping will be the biggest single emitter of air pollution in Europe, even surpassing the emissions from all land-based sources.’

Consultants calculate that 55 regular-sized liners a year would emit the equivalent of 688 heavy lorries permanently running their engines at Enderby Wharf in Greenwich, but ships the size of the 12-deck ‘Crystal Symphony’ would emit as many diesel fumes as 2,000 trucks a day (The Crystal Symphony has visited Cobh).

Legal debate revolves around the argument that the developers of the new Greenwich wharf should be obliged to provide an onshore electricity supply for the ships so that the liners could cut their engines while berthed.  Emissions thus could be reduced. 

 

Bellyaching Greenies

Problem is only a tiny percentage of the ports visited by cruise liners have clean onshore power and, say the vested interests, supplying electrical power is not ‘commercially viable.’ Current planning permission does not require a cleaner operation and all that EU law demands is that ships switch to their auxiliary engines and burn low-sulphur fuel within two hours of arriving in port until two hours before they leave.

While pollution from cruise ships is of growing concern in Britain, the controversy has still to raise its sulphurous head in Cork. But not for long! 

Local Greenies already are bellyaching at a situation whereby mega-liners visiting our shores are operating under pollution standards long since banished on land.  They have a point!

 

Pilgrims’ progress

Let’s hope tourists have taken to FG’s Deputy Jim Daly’s brillo idea for 130 post offices to issue passports to tourists travelling along the Wild Atlantic Way. The passport costs a tenner and entitles holders to access discounts and special deals in restaurants or hotels along the route.

Daly hit on the wheeze having been impressed by the ‘pilgrim passport’ on the Camino de Santiago, which, he said, encouraged pilgrims to return to Spain time and again. He was sure the West Cork version would stimulate repeat-visits to his neck of the woods and would be a ‘great keepsake’ for those who completed the WAW route. 

Interestingly, Fine Gael politicos have a unique fascination with passports. A few years ago, his colleague on Cork Corpo, Cllr Laura McGonigle, invented a Cork ‘passport,’ otherwise known as a ‘Certificate of Corkness,’ whose aim was to commemorate the so called ‘Cork Rebel Week’ festivities.  

It led to great mirth in the city (at Cllr McGonigle’s expense) when the idea went down like a lead balloon. In a promotional brochure, the ‘rebel passport’ listed the nationality of the revered military leader, Michael Collins, as Corkonian, which technically was correct.  But, it was the reference to his gender that had Leesiders in stitches: ‘Langer’ – a Leeside slang word for penis – was how it classified The Big Fellow!

The term sparked outrage among Fine Gael councillors who demanded that all the 100,000 brochures be withdrawn and contemptuously pulped.  Surviving brochures are now collectors’ items and cost a fortune on Ebay!

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