The MSC Orchestra cruise liner has made its maiden voyage to South African shores.
It started its journey in Genoa, Italy, and stopped at the Réunion island, before arriving at the Port of Durban on Saturday with 3 000 passengers.
The ship has been introduced on the local route following the successes enjoyed by MSC Cruises with previous vessels including MSC Sinfonia, MSC Opera and MSC Musica.
During the 2019/20 cruise season, which started in October and ends in April 2020, the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) expects to host at least 23 luxury cruise ships at the country’s six cruise ports.
Of these, Durban will welcome 17 cruise liners.
Meanwhile, the Durban port had started construction on a new passenger terminal.
On Saturday afternoon, TNPA and the KwaZulu Cruise Terminal (KCT) consortium – in which MSC Cruises is a partner alongside empowered investment entity Africa Armada Consortium – broke ground on the construction of the Port of Durban’s new world-class cruise terminal.
KCT holds a 25-year port concession from TNPA to finance, build, operate, maintain and transfer the new cruise terminal facility in the Port of Durban at an estimated value of R200-million.
KCT had been finalising the detailed design of the cruise terminal building and the anticipated commissioning of the project is 2020/21.
The port’s cruise sector developments reflected a growing confidence in Durban as a cruise prospect, said Durban port GM Moshe Motlohi.
“MSC Orchestra’s use of the Port of Durban as her homeport will see even more domestic and international tourists enjoying itineraries that take in our South African hub cruise ports of Durban and Cape Town, as well as ports in neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Mauritius.”
“TNPA, in partnership with the City of Durban and the province of KwaZulu-Natal, is growing Durban as a Smart Port City and a world-class cruise capital. This aligns with the KwaZulu-Natal Integrated Maritime Industry Development Strategy launched onboard the MSC Sinfonia in 2013, which highlighted maritime tourism as a catalyst for economic development.”
Motlohi said the new terminal development dovetailed with the City of Durban’s new beachfront promenade extension from uShaka beach southwards to the harbour entrance, as well as the future development of Durban Point Waterfront.
Transnet plans to start construction on its own section of the promenade in the third quarter next year, which will connect to the new cruise terminal, allowing cruise passengers direct access and connections to the central beachfront with relative ease and safety.
“This is going to change the face of Durban. The cruise industry is the fastest-growing category in the leisure travel market, and TNPA’s decision to build a dedicated cruise terminal in the port is well supported,” said Motlohi.
The new 'green' and energy efficient terminal will boast a host of new features and facilities, with a retail component, as well as multi-purpose training, conferencing and events facilities.