THE Balearics look set to slash port taxes by 30 percent today in a bid to attract more cruise ships to the region.
Balearic Port Authority chairman Joan Verger said yesterday that this winter, the islands' ports are braced for a cruise ship boom but added that, long term, ports need to be enlarged, especially in Palma and port taxes need to be more competitive, hence the 30 discounts expected to be approved today.
Verger said that he has come under increasing pressure from cruise companies to cut port taxes and, cruise ships planning at least 20 ports of call in the Balearics between November 15 and April 15, will be entitled to the full 30 percent discount. This will guarantee a much more fluid flow of cruise ships through the winter, which is good news for the tourist industry, the port chairman said yesterday.
He also said that, with regards to Palma's long term cruise future, the final plan for the redesign of the Port of Palma and the Dique del Oeste, is nearly complete and will soon be made public.
He said that the primary aim is, by making the most of the entire Port of Palma, from the Moll Vell in front of the Cathedral, all the way round to the Dique del Oeste, to provide much more space of growth potential for the cruise and ferry sectors as well as the nautical maintenance and merchant shipping sectors.
Verger said that, ultimately, the future design of the Port of Palma will be revealed in the new Port Infrastructure Plan which will not be finalised until the end of December.
Nevertheless, he said that the port can not continue expanding in front of the Cathedral. He hinted at all merchant shipping being moved down to the Dique del Oeste with extra mooring facilities for cruise ships being installed in the Moll Vell area. This would enable passengers to walk into the centre of Palma in a matter of minutes.
Moving merchant shipping and heavy goods vehicles away from the Moll Vell and the Paseo Maritimo has been a primary aim of the Port Authority for many years now. Commerce would welcome cruise ships mooring up in front of the cathedral, just a few minutes walk away from the city centre.
Verger believes that the Moll Vell, once merchant shipping has been moved, offers much more growth potential for the cruise sector than the Dique del Oeste, which is already having to handle cruise and merchant traffic.
The British cruise industry is one of Europe's prime movers, breaking the one million passenger mark for the first time.
With the launch of The Queen Mary 2, visiting Palma last week, at the start of the year, the UK market has attracted a great deal of interest from cruise lines.
The UK market is now the second largest in the world, after the US, and all main European cruise destinations are fighting to get a slice of the action.