Antibes world’s cruise business capital for one week
From the 55th general assembly of MedCruise in France it emerged that 2019 will be a record season for cruises in the Mediterranean
Antibes (France) – In 1996, Genoa Port Authority secretary general Fabio Capocaccia gathered his counterparts of Malta, Gibraltar, Barcelona and Piraeus to establish Medcruise, and in the next year he became its president (for two mandates and a half).
Besides the first head of the association of Mediterranean cruise ports, Malta Port Authority President Joe Grioli, the Board included Port Authorities presidents Joaquim Tosas (Spain), Kyriakos Perimenis (Greece), Michalis Vassiliades (Cyprus) and Albert Poggio (Gibraltar).
The association grew significantly, and its nature and functionality changed, as it emerged from the last General Assembly recently held in Antibes, one of the minor ports which, together with Nice and Cannes, form the French Riviera Ports.
In fact, port authorities presidents do not attend the meeting any more since the twice-yearly summit is attended by marketing managers and cruise terminals operational officers, who have the opportunity to meet the executive managers or cruise lines representatives with whom they are going to work in the course of the year concerning commercial and operational issues.
Moreover, the association recently witnessed a significant development, as confirmed by president Airam Diaz Pastor – representative of the Tenerife (Canary Islands) port authority – in his opening speech.
Being in his second term (out of three) of his first mandate (he can be re-elected), the Spanish president tends to favour a transparent dialogue between port members, and between the latter and shipping companies.
“The 55th edition of MedCruise general assembly achieved record figures: 72 members of 130 ports in 21 countries in the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea, Adriatic Sea, Northern Atlantic Sea and North Africa, the second cruise market worldwide after the Caribbean”, Diaz started off with enthusiasm.
“Being at the beginning of October, we can already take stock of the situation: following the over 28 million handled passengers recorded in 2018 – with a +8.1% growth compared to 2017 – by the end of 2019 we expect to exceed 30 million”.
Last year, in West Med, 40 member ports handled 21.5 million passengers (compared to 19.7 million in 2017, with an 8% increase), amounting to 85% of the total regional traffic, and this year we expect a further 9.4% growth.
“On top of that, unlike the Caribbean – which recorded a decrease – in 2018 the deployment of ships in the Mediterranean increased by 1%, achieving 17%. Moreover, the top 10 cruise lines of the world are our regular customers”, the Spanish port manager added.
The three French Riviera Ports already headed MedCruise in the past with Laurent Monsaingeon (2005-2008), its fourth president, after Grioli, Capocaccia and Joan Madrid (Barcelona), and several members of the Board for various years after 1997.
“Today our French colleagues have the honour of welcoming some 200 delegates and 17 cruise lines executives, as well as 8 representatives of the international specialized press (including Ship2Shore, ed.) for a 4-days program including two debates and round tables, and several tours across the territory in light of the offer to be submitted to passengers onboard. Antibes will be the world’s cruise capital for one week!”, declared Diaz, urging his colleagues to play a proactive part in it.
“We are here to ask questions, to submit petitions, to disclose our plans, to improve and to attract an increasing number of cruise companies. However, we also work for the sustainable growth of our business, but above all we must focus on our motto ‘Ports Together’!
In order to develop, we started a collaboration with the Bocconi University and CERTET to carry out an in-depth analysis of statistical data, which must be uniform and comparable.
Moreover, we recently launched the MedCruise Awards, which were first granted in Genoa during the Genoa Shipping Week of last June”, MedCruise president concluded.
The summit was attended by many Italian representatives: Genoa-Savona, Bari-Brindisi, Terminal Napoli, Venice VTP, Livorno, Piombino-Elba (Tuscany, Mixos), Cagliari, Palermo, Taranto, Civitavecchia, Cemar Agency, Ancona.
The next editions of the General Assembly will be held first in Palamos (Spain), and then in Malaga, during the Seatrade Med 2020.
Genoa submitted its official application for Seatrade Med 2022, and in case of a positive answer this great event might get back to the Italian port capital, where its first five editions (from 1996 to 2004) were held.
However, Genoa will have several fierce competitors, probably including a North African port (possibly Tangier, since Morocco wants to become a world’s leader in shipping, ports and logistics), and other possible ports to be included in the short list from which Seatrade will choose.
How important is size for modern cruises?
The lively and interesting debate of the plenary session was entitled “Trends in the Med”.
“In order to have success, we must work together with ports” Bud Darr (MSC) started off, adding that the phenomenon must be managed more carefully.
“Un-managed (autonomous) tourism is a real problem, as the case of Venice shows. We need a more convincing partnership to avoid the imbalances which affect the quality of services”.
In conclusion, “as the port of Venice shows, there is no way that ‘One size fits all’”, the American manager concluded.
“Today we have 9 ships in our fleet, and in a couple of years we will have 12 ships. In May 2021, the first LNG-supplied ‘exploration vessel’ will be launched. The increase in tonnage is not accidental because size does matter”, Edie Rodriguez (Ponant) – representative of a company dealing with cruises since 31 years, which started a specific development process only 4 years ago – replied.
“Being the leading cruise group worldwide, we have small, medium and large units with all our 11 brands, therefore we can meet all needs of any passenger”, observed the French manager Michel Nestour (Carnival) working in Southampton (UK).
The German manager Richard Vogel (Pullmantur), working in the Spanish cruise sector since 2016, pointed out: “Since we are a Spanish company, our passengers have slightly different needs. We like collaborating with ports, and we are a reliable partner. However, we are far from an optimal dialogue. How can we integrate stakeholders?”, former DSR and TUI head asked rhetorically.
“We must adapt to cruise passengers, not vice versa: for instance, if Spanish people do not get up very early to go to work, why should they do so to go on a tour?”.
International cruise companies toasted to shipowner monks
The organizers of the French Riviera summit arranged a very exciting tour for the managers of international cruise shipping companies and for the specialized press: a visit to Île Saint-Honorat, the smallest of the two islands opposite Cannes (Lérins Islands), which is only 1.5 Km long and 400 m wide, belonging to monks dealing with the production of fine red and white wines (7 varieties), liquors and olive oil.
Monks also own the only maritime ferry line authorized to provide connections with the mainland, with boats accessible also to visitors and tourists, i.e. the shipping company Planaria, boasting a couple of red boats with a 200 passengers capacity.
This is a very rare, or even unique case of shipowners belonging to a religious order!