Port Services Manager Bruce Lochhead says the relatively small port punches above its weight and is an attractive stop for cruise liners on many levels. He chats to Mark Story.

To you, what is it about Napier that brings in this huge volume of cruise liners?

What makes Napier unique is that the tourism industry all works together, to make sure cruise passengers are taken care of from the moment they arrive at Napier Port. They're treated to an Art Deco-style welcome as soon as they arrive, complete with themed cars. This is backed up by the great experience that the wider Hawke's Bay region offers, with its architecture, fantastic weather and strong food and wine scene.

For Napier Port, it's also about what our marine team offers to cruise lines that call here. The port itself is smaller than some others, which makes berthing more challenging. But Napier Port has a highly experienced team of pilots and marine operations staff, who have built up strong working relationships with the cruise lines over the years. Cruise captains know that when they come to Napier Port, they're supported by a highly capable team that they know and trust.

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Given the hike in numbers, is there a limit to how many liners the port can handle?
We have 72 confirmed cruise calls for the upcoming season, which is an all-time high for Napier Port. We're well-placed to handle this number, but we have reached peak capacity. We have to turn away around five to 10 cruise ship requests each year, due to lack of space.

Napier Port is also handling increasing volumes of export products, a trend that's set to continue. And we need to keep pace with changes in the international shipping industry. Ship sizes are growing – the next generation of cruise ships will be 360 metres long.

The cruise sector injects an estimated $20 million into the local economy each year. Every cruise ship that's turned away is a loss for the local economy, which is not something anyone wants to see happening.

That's one of the key reasons why Napier Port has proposed a new wharf that can address these challenges, and future-proof growth for Hawke's Bay. It's a crucial infrastructure project that will not just benefit the port, but everyone in the region.

Either way, are there changes afoot to handle the increased frequency and/or bigger ships?
Our proposed new wharf would address a number of issues. It would be 350 metres long and approximately 34 metres wide. The wharf, and its additional mooring systems, could accommodate these next generation, 360 metre-long cruise ships. We're currently seeking resource consent for the proposed new wharf, and have been engaging with interested groups and the community for the past couple of years.

What feedback have you had from the cruise industry about the port/Hawke's Bay?
We receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from cruise lines and their guests. Napier continues to be rated as one of the top port calls in New Zealand. Passengers come away with a really memorable experience, which they share with their friends and family.

And the feedback from cruise lines is also extremely positive. Cruise lines are actively inquiring about our proposed new wharf, and are following developments closely. Ultimately, cruise lines want to go where their passengers want to go. They want to bring more cruise ships, and more passengers, to Napier. It's our job to try and meet this demand.

What's the most common myth/misconception about the industry?
People often assume that cruise holidays are just for those who've retired. That might have once been true, but it's certainly not the case today. Cruise holidays now appeal to a wider range of ages, so the profile of cruise passengers has definitely changed. There are ships being built for all types of travellers including families, food and wine connoisseurs and adventure-seekers. But that's not a problem for Napier. This city and region proudly has something to offer for all these passengers.