Kiel hopeful 2021 cruise season will take place as planned

PHOTO: TOM KORBER/PORT OF KIEL CRUISE_Ostseekai_Terminal_28_Photo_Tom_Körber.jpg
Ostseekai's expansion with Berth 28 was among the investments completed in 2020
Dirk Claus, MD of the Port of Kiel, expects cruise operations to normalize for this year's season, scheduled to open in May.

Last year, only 29 cruise calls were handled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in contrast to the 198 which had been booked. Overall, the Port of Kiel recorded only 517,500 passengers at its terminals, 78% fewer than in 2019.

In the ferry sector, a year-round core business, passenger volumes dropped 69.6%.

Hygiene protocols

Claus said he assumes cruise operations can resume under the strict hygiene concepts implemented and that the vaccination campaigns currently underway in Germany will become widespread.

'I am confident that the season can take place according to plan,' Claus maintained, stating he expects sea tourism to recover in late spring/summer.

Last year's 29 calls took place without incident, thanks to hygienic concepts that were developed jointly with the cruise operators. 

Cargo volumes remain solid

While the cruise business has gained ever more importance for Kiel in recent years, the port always remained highly diversified, relying as much on liner traffic and cargo handling. This strategy paid off in 2020, helping Kiel get through the year 'with a blue eye' despite the massive decline in passenger volumes.

A total 6.92m tons of cargo were handled, only 1.2% less than in 2019. Ferry operations with Sweden and Lithuania proved particularly solid and even saw slight increases in the cargo volumes handled. This, together with a number of successfully completed investment projects, give Kiel a good basis for the future, Claus said.

Shore power installation and new Berth 28

The single largest 2020 measure was the construction of the shore power supply plant at Ostseekai with an investment volume of €15m. Apart from supplying cruise vessels, this plant will also provide power to Stena Line's ferries at the neighboring Schwedenkai terminal.

Additionally, Ostseekai's new Berth 28 became operational, complete with a dedicated terminal building. The building's inauguration, planned for the beginning of March 2020, was among the first events in the Kiel region canceled due to the pandemic.

Nevertheless, the Port of Kiel is optimistic its investment in cruise infrastructure will help to strengthen its market position in the medium term: 'We are now in the advantageous position that the big mid-term investments have been completed,' Claus said.

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