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$15m in cruise improvements planned at Manta (**updated**)

(Rendering: Terminal Portuario de Manta)
Cruise terminal construction is to begin in August, with completion in August 2018
Update adds reaction/comment from Holland America Line. Ecuador's Manta port, under new management, plans cruise-related improvements to the tune of US$15m, including building a passenger terminal.

There is great potential to grow tourism in Manta and the surrounding area, according to Samuel Franco C., general manager, Terminal Portuario de Manta, who cited 'beautiful reserves, parks, beaches and small, eco-friendly resort facilities.'

With more visitors coming from around the world, including by ship, a cruise terminal will help Manta realize its tourism potential, Franco said. Construction is set to begin in August, with completion in August 2018.

Work to improve pier access and repair columns is also to start this August, with completion in July 2018. During the same timeframe, International Pier #2 will be extended by 100 meters. Dredging to deepen the access channel to 12.5 meters is scheduled to begin in November and finish in January.

The second phase of port improvements entails channel dredging to 14.5 meters, a new 300-meter pier and two post-Panama gantry cranes.

All this work on passenger and cargo initiatives amounts to $177m in investments by Terminal Portuario de Manta, a subsidiary of Chilean terminal operator Agunsa Group, which won a 40-year concession to develop and operate Manta port in 2016.

Holland America Line visits Manta several times a year and 'it is a major port for us on the west coast of South America,' according to Capt. Dirk van der Raadt, senior manager, deployment and itinerary planning. Though he's not familiar with the particulars of the plans, he said this sounds like great news since Manta is an important stepping stone to many marquee shore destinations, including excursions to the Galápagos and Quito.

'For us this development will probably not directly increase the amount of calls as the destination is obviously part of the South America deployment as a whole, but it will definitely help keep Manta on our “map,"' van der Raadt noted. 'That said, development of ports on the west coast of South America will most likely drive increased numbers of calls and passengers in the long run.'

This year Manta projects nearly 20,294 passengers on 21 calls, up from 18,065 passengers in 2016 and about the same number in 2015. Besides Holland America, ships from lines including Carnival, Celebrity, Oceania, Phoenix Reisen, Princess and Silversea have visited.

Besides beaches, Manta is famous for fresh seafood, and the Manabi regional cuisine has been called 'the best excuse for visiting Ecuador.' The city offers archaeological and art museums, a boardwalk and lively nightlife.

Nearby Pacoche Rain Forest is home to howler monkeys and tagua trees, which yield an ivory-like nut that's carved into figurines and jewelry. At Machalilla National Park, visitors can bathe in hot mineral springs. Charming Montecristi, a center for arts and crafts, produces the world-famous Panama hats.

Shore excursions are available to all these attractions.