Cruise ship visits to increase for Hamilton but down in St George’s
Hamilton will benefit from a boost in cruise ship visits next year as the island expects a record number of cruise calls.
Last week Lawrence Scott, the Minister of Transport, said that the Government would soon publish the first draft of the 2023 cruise ship schedule, which could feature as many as 222 calls.
He said that even with an average number of cancellations – about ten or 15 per year – the 2023 season would be a record breaker.
Mr Scott expects that Hamilton will have more ships in 2023 than 2022, although there could be a slight decline in the number of visits to the East End.
However, Mr Scott said that he would work to ensure that ferry services are in place to get passengers from Dockyard to St George’s.
“The only thing that suspended service in St George’s was the fact that we didn’t have the dock. We will have the dock,” he said.
“As long as I sit in this seat, and as long as I get the funding from the Ministry of Finance, I will commit that when there is a cruise ship is in port we will run the Orange Ferry schedule.”
According to ministry staff, the draft schedule includes 24 cruise ship visits to Hamilton and ten to St George’s, with nine ships visiting both ports.
The figure is a slight decline for St George’s, which was scheduled to receive 12 visits this year including two later this month and three in November.
However, the 2023 schedule appears to benefit Hamilton, which was scheduled to receive 11 visits this year including two later this month and four in November.
Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette that the Government was still in discussions with a possible $250 million investment in the island’s cruise ship infrastructure by one of its partners in the industry.
“Progress is being made and I am excited about the progress but we have to go through the process and do our due diligence to make sure this vision comes to fruition,” he said.
“It’s still in the works – it’s not ready for prime time just yet – but we are making sure that the right impact studies are being done, that financial due diligence is done, that all the logistical and back-office work is done before we start getting to a ribbon cutting naming who our partner is.
“What I will say is if and when it comes to fruition, it will be something for the record books.”
Bermuda-based airlines could make a real impact on bolstering air service to destinations important for Bermuda residents, the Minister of Transport has said.
Lawrence Scott said that while discussions about a Bermudian airline had been dismissed by some, there was great potential for success.
“When it comes to attracting airlines, we are setting a new trend that other jurisdictions will follow,” he said.
“The trend we are setting is based on our regulator excellence on an international scale and the fact that the Bermuda market – although it is too small to be of any significant priority to our legacy carriers – have been proven to sustain routes if tied to our local demographics.
“The Azores flight sustains itself with no financial support from the Government whatsoever. Miami flights are locally driven with no support from the Government.”
Mr Scott said that while Bermudians might be frequent travellers, the island’s small population meant the travel interests of Bermudians carried little weight for larger airlines.
“We are one tenth of one per cent of the seat capacity of the legacy carriers,” he said.
“We have eight flights a day, and they have airports where they have that many flights every 15 minutes. Bermuda is special, Bermuda is another world, but we are part of the global society.”
Mr Scott said that three potential air service providers had expressed interest, with one in the advance stages and hiring.
“We are hoping to be able to announce a new service provider sometime next month to be able to provide and continue service into Boston,” he said.
He said two aircraft had been discussed, including an AC20, which has the potential to carry up to 150 people, while the second would be a more business-focused service with a smaller CRJ aircraft.
Mr Scott added that potential connections to “breadbasket nations” could potentially lead to the importation of less expensive products to the island.
Mr Scott said that work to electrify the island’s bus fleet was progressing well with budgeting for another 40 vehicles expected to be included in the next budget.
“What we are starting to see now is some cancellations because the traditional buses are at the end of their useful life,” he said.
“We are working them hard and our mechanics are working as hard as they can to keep them on the road and as safe as possible.
“We believe that come September of next year we should be able to have the reliability of the fleet that we have promised over the years.”
Mr Scott said that more resources would be required to bolster the island’s ferry schedule, describing it as a “tall order” in the short term.
“Our focus is to have the resources available to provide the services we currently advertise. Right now, we are still trying to get back to zero.
“The Marine and Ports fleet is in a better place than the DPT fleet, so the ministry is focusing its attention on getting the DPT fleet up to a place where we can provide consistent and reliable service.
“Marine and Ports is already doing that consistent and reliable service for the most part.”
Mr Scott added that the ferry Bermudian was overseas being refitted, but was expected back on island in the next few months.
“That is the workhorse of the cruise ships here in Bermuda,” he said. “We are putting the money into it. It’s 35 years old and was in need of update and that is what we are doing.
“It is going to come back with brand new engines, brand new navigation, pretty much brand new everything, and be ready, willing and able to service this record year of cruise ships.”