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Port eyes cruise ship terminal in Richmond

Supersized boats are getting too big for the likes of Canada Place
cruise ship
As cruise ships get ever bigger, Port of Vancouver is challenged to accomodate them at Canada Place and is now looking to other locations, such as Richmond and Delta’s Roberts Bank. The Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, above, will become the biggest cruise ship on the seas when it launches next April. File photo

Supersized Love Boats could be coming to Richmond and Delta.

With cruise lines now building bigger ships, which Canada Place simply won’t be able to accommodate, the Port of Vancouver has begun preliminary studies on a potential cruise ship facility either at Richmond or perhaps Roberts Bank.

“We’re very early in the process,” port president and CEO Robin Silvester told the Delta Optimist this week.

“Cruise ships are getting bigger. When Canada Place was being built, it used to handle five cruise ships, but now it can’t even handle three of the bigger ones that come in at the same time.

“In fact, if you look at the size of Canada Place, if you were building a cruise terminal from scratch you’d build it the size of Canada Place just to handle one vessel… so it’s a challenge and we’re very good at dealing with challenges.”

Cruise lines have turned to massive new ships in recent years, including Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, which will become the biggest cruise ship on the seas when it launches next April.

The ship will take the title from the cruise line’s sister ship, Harmony of the Seas, which launched in 2016 with a capacity of over 5,000 passengers.

Able to carry even more passengers, the 16-deck Symphony of the Seas will spend its inaugural summer in Europe before arriving at its newly built massive cruise terminal in Miami.

The newer, larger vessels can’t travel under the Lions Gate Bridge, noted Silvester.

That’s why the port has begun to consider other locations that can not only provide space for a proper facility but have proximity to the airport.

“So if you look at the Lower Mainland, you’re really down to Richmond and Delta as the only two areas where you can ever hope to meet that set of criteria,” Silvester said.

He noted it’s too early in the examination to know if a potential cruise ship facility in Delta would be part of planned port infrastructure at Roberts Bank or built from scratch as a new facility. Finding funding partners will also be an issue.

This summer, a top official with Cruise Lines International Association told the media that Vancouver is behind other cities, such as Seattle, that are investing heavily in their port infrastructure.

The port shut down the Ballantyne Pier to cruise ships in 2014, leaving Canada Place as the city’s only remaining cruise terminal.

Some ships, including Royal Caribbean’s 3,250-passenger Explorer of the Seas, operate out of Seattle because they’re too large to get under the Lions Gate Bridge.

Vancouver’s cruise passenger traffic grew to 827,000 passengers in 2016.

The 2017 passenger count is projected to total 841,000.