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Chile weighs bill to allow cabotage for cruise ships of all sizes

Conosur President Enrique Runin, fifth from left, and the Conosur board met with Tourism Undersecretary Verónica Pardo and Sernatur National Director Cristóbal Benítez
Chile is considering a bill to allow foreign-flag passenger ships of all sizes to operate domestic cruises.

This would eliminate the restriction for ships carrying fewer than 400 passengers, and could be a boon to expedition cruise operators given Chile's lengthy coastline. 

Follows 2019 bill applying to larger ships

In 2019, after a years-long effort by advocates, Chile amended its laws to allow foreign-flag ships with capacity for at least 400 passengers to begin and end cruises at Chilean ports without calling at a foreign destination. The 400 threshold was put in place to protect the domestic cruise industry while giving it plenty of room to grow; at the time, the largest Chilean-flag vessels carried around 200 passengers.

Meeting with national officials

The cabotage issue was among a number of cruise-related matters aired during a meeting between Tourism Undersecretary Verónica Pardo, Sernatur National Director Cristóbal Benítez and the new board of Southern Cone Ports Corp. (Conosur).

Conosur officials, who support opening cabotage to all foreign-flag cruise ships, were invited to express their views to the Chamber of Deputies' Commission of Public Works, Transportation and Telecommunications.

The ports group had led the earlier legislative effort.

2023/24 cruise season 

Conosur projects Chile's cruise passenger count to increase about 10% during the upcoming 2023/24 season over 2022/23 since ships are resuming their normal occupancy rates.

The 2022/23 season chalked up 250,465 passengers on 383 calls, compared to the 294,236 passengers and 275 calls in the pre-pandemic 2019/20 period.

Seatrade Cruise Global plans

At the meeting with national officials, Conosur also urged strengthening Chile's participation at Seatrade Cruise Global 2024, set for April 8-11 in Miami Beach. Conosur and Sernatur jointly exhibit at the event.

Conosur President Enrique Runín described the meeting as 'very productive,' adding: 'We analyzed several issues of great importance for the cruise industry and jointly established a series of initiatives in which we can work collaboratively to promote and enhance the development of this industry in Chile.'

Besides Runin (Chacabuco Port), Conosur board members in attendance included VP Eduardo Arancibia (Puerto Montt), Second VP Juan Marcos Mancilla (Port of Valparaíso), directors Fernando Gajardo (San Antonio Port) and Rodrigo Pommiez (Empresa Portuaria Austral) and Executive Secretary Eric Petri.