St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe says cruise ship traffic to the city in 2011 is on schedule to be about the same as last year.
According to the city’s statistics, ships are scheduled to bring in 18,624 visitors — passengers and crew —to the city this year compared to 19,025 people in 2010.
“The difference between this year and last year, really, is we’re going to have less ships, but bigger ships,” O’Keefe told The Telegram Wednesday. “The conditions vary from year to year to year, but usually we’re pretty consistant,” he added.
The mayor, who is also chairman of the city’s cruise ship committee, said weather may still affect this year’s numbers as scheduled visits sometimes get cancelled due to high winds or fog.
But O’Keefe said sometimes that works in the city’s favour.
“You may, in fact, have a cruise ship that can’t get into a port in Iceland because of bad weather so they skip Iceland and they come in here and we get an extra ship,” he said.
Looking towards next year, O’Keefe said it looks like the numbers will be up.
“2012 is already looks better than 2011 will be,” he said.
The city estimates 22,020 visitors will arrive in St. John’s via cruise ships next calendar year.
Typically, most ships visit between mid-August and mid-October.
O’Keefe said he would like to broaden the cruise ship season to get more vessels visiting in May, June and July.
“Although we are probably lucky we didn’t do it this year because the weather was so atrocious,” he said.
A Telegram reader also wanted to know if access to the harbour front was closed to the public when no cruise ships are in port, as a security fence has been erected on the east end of the harbour.
“When there are no ships in, I’ve never had a problem walking up and down the waterfront,” said the mayor. “The fence is there, but you can still walk through.”
O’Keefe directed further inquiries to the St. John’s Port Authority.
Jeff McGrath is manager of marine operations and security for the authority.
“We have a Transport Canada approved security plan and when a cruise vessel comes in, we are required to have the entire vessel enclosed from bow to stern,” he said of the fence.
McGrath said that’s because there needs to be a restricted areas on the harbour apron.
“Persons are permitted on the pier when cruise vessels aren’t there,” he confirmed. “However, oftentimes due to the nature of the work that’s taking place, people must be cautious and vigilant of the hazards.”
McGrath said people must use common sense and be aware when things like boom trucks, cranes and fuel trucks are working on the pier.
“It’s not the place to be pushing your kid in a little stroller,” he said of those times.