By Humphrey Carter
PALMA is set for a summer cruise boom this year with a five percent increase in cruise liner traffic forecast.
Palma Port Authority sources announced yesterday that, based on present berth bookings for the cruise season, 20 more ships will be visiting Majorca this coming season than last summer. However, Palma is the only Balearic port destined for an increase in cruise liners. The ports of Mahon, Ibiza and La Savina in Formentera are set for a slight decline in business. A total of 94 cruise ships will be putting in to Mahon this summer, 15 less than last year, while 100 will be heading for Ibiza, 26 less, and cruise traffic to Formentera will fall by nearly 60 percent with just 16 ships calling in on the small island this summer. The 20 extra ships coming to Palma represent a near five percent increase in cruise traffic and president of the Balearic Port Authority, Joan Verger, said yesterday that the outlook, in general, for the Majorcan and Mediterranean cruise industries for this summer is “very encouraging.” However, he said that further reforms and improvements need to be carried out at all of the Balearics' ports, in particular Palma, despite it having won further international awards this year for services and facilities provided. “Palma is not able to cope with these annual increases in traffic. “If the number of ships and passengers continue rising at this rate of five to six percent a year, within ten years, traffic will have increased by 540 percent and there just is not sufficient space in Palma,” he said. Verger said that the relevant authorities have to start thinking about building for the future, “in order to meet present demands, we're talking about an investment of 200'000 million pesetas,” he said yesterday. Verger said that the Port of Palma can just about handle cruise traffic for the next ten years “but after that, it's going to have serious problems meeting the needs of the cruise industry. We need to start planning for beyond 2014 and looking ahead to 2020,” he added. “We don't seem to fully appreciate the problems lying ahead for the port of Palma. “We think we've got a port designed for the future, we've got to start planning some ten years ahead, not working in blocks of two years,” the port boss said. Verger added that the Port Authority has recently carried out a viability study and, “quite simply, we've got to start planning now.” Verger also said that there is concern about the down turn in cruise traffic in Mahon.
The cruise sector is vital to Minorca's tourist industry, but the problem appears to be that the new generation of cruise liners is becoming too big for the port, which does not have sufficient mooring facilities for superliners. This months, the cruise liner Columbus will visit Mahon on her way from Tangiers to Nice, but Mahon's busiest months are going to be May and June.
Twenty-one ships will put in to Mahon alone next month, followed by 11 in June.
In July, only five will visit the island, eight in August, 16 in October and six in November.
In Ciutadella, a new campaign is be launched in favour od a new inner-marina as part of the island drive to attract more pleasure craft and cruise ships. The blanket campaign, which has massive public support, will be launched within the next six weeks.

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