Full steam ahead for cruise liner industry

AS the Communist Party of China declared a "new era" of socialism with Chinese characteristics, Baoshan District is targeting a new age in the global cruise liner economy.
Ti Gong

Two cruises dock at the Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal

AS the Communist Party of China declared a “new era” of socialism with Chinese characteristics, Baoshan District in northern Shanghai is targeting a new age in the global cruise liner economy.

The district, from which the renowned Chinese explorer and diplomat Zheng He (1371-1433) set off his expeditionary voyages in 1405, now wants to become a maritime Silk Road gateway with its cruise industry.

China’s plans for the Belt and Road initiative to connect Asia with Europe and Africa has inspired new ambitions in Baoshan, revealed Wang Hong, Party Secretary of Baoshan and director with Shanghai International Cruise Economy Research Center.

“The Party says the principal contradiction facing Chinese society is ‘unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life’ and the cruise liner tourism can become an important part to cap people’s demands to a better life,” said Wang.

Wang proposed to promote the experiences of the cruise liner port development to the Belt and Road countries, while opening more routes to these destinations. Situated at the mouth of the Yangtze River, Baoshan is the gateway to Shanghai because of its port.

China’s cruise liner industry has been rapidly developing for over a decade to the current stable development stage, said Qian Yongchang, China’s former minister of transport and chairman of the China Communication and Transportation Association.

Birth of China’s cruise industry

China’s cruise industry started in July 2006 when Costa Allegra became the first holiday cruise to dock at Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal.

That year Shanghai received 59 international cruises and more than 80,000 passengers.

The number surged to 509 ships and 2.87 million passengers in 2016, an 85 percent increase a year, revealed Xu Weiwan, director of Shanghai Tourism Administration.

“Shanghai is expected to receive over 5 million passengers with 800 cruise ships by 2020 and will be among the world’s leading cruise tourism ports,” Xu said.

Xu believes China needs to develop its own cruise liner to achieve that goal. Cruise companies should develop more global routes, while the services should come up to international standard.

The Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal is expected to become the new center for the world’s cruise industry, especially under the Belt and Road initiative, said Qian. The port is the biggest in Asia and among the top four in the global world. The recent rapid growth has slowed and become more stable this year, as both the cruise liner companies and passengers became more rational.

Supply and demand

Shanghai’s cruise liner market has been developing stably and orderly this year, said Xu Peixing, director of the Shanghai Water Tourism Promotion Center. Cruise liner companies have realized the local market has been oversupplied as an increasing number of vessels make Shanghai a homeport, Xu said.

In June, three new ships Norwegian Joy, SuperStar Virgo with Star Cruises and Majestic Princess, operated by Carnival, set off from the Baoshan port.

Eighteen major cruise liners have made Baoshan the homeport. Many of the companies then adjusted their products and shifted the good resources to more appropriate seasons, which help to stabilize the local market, added Xu.

He asked to further regulate the local market with international standards and laws, enhance the education on tourists and improve the service environment.

There have been some problems hidden behind the glorious development of China’s cruise industry in recent years, Qian noted. They include the scarcity of talent and large dependence on the foreign cruise liner companies, Qian said.

Moreover, most Chinese cruise liner ports could hardly make ends meet, while the nation also lacks the skills to build its own homemade ships, Qian revealed.

To cap the demands, the Shanghai University of Engineering Science, and the center, are to establish a training league within the global cruise industry education institutes to cultivate more high-end professionals, said Shi Jianyong, vice president of the university and executive deputy director with the research center.

Cruise economy research

Furthermore, another cooperative league among cruise economy research institutes worldwide will be established to drive global cooperation, as well as allowing the global think tanks to share their visions on the future cruise industry.

To develop a world class cruise liner port is not as simple as it looks like. It requires joint efforts from the city and district governments, as well as the transport commission, customs house, port inspection and quarantine and maritime authorities.

A high standard on quality and services is key to the development of Baoshan’s cruise liner economy, said Huang Xiaolu, director of the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Quality and Technology Supervision.

Huang says the quality watchdog has established a cruise liner service standard with Baoshan to make the Wusongkou port a national demonstration.

To further increase the efficiency of the port, the city’s transport and maritime authorities will launch a new scheme next year to allow large cruise liners to sail along with regular container ships, said Zhang Lin, deputy director of Shanghai transport commission.

The three experiments were carried between August and October at the mouth of Yangtze River, according to Xie Qunwei, deputy director with Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration. Xie added that patrol boats, with the administration, will escort the cruise liners to ensure their safety.

The commission will also improve the evacuation system of the port to make it more convenient for passengers.

The air pollution will be under control to make a green cruise liner port of Baoshan, Zhang said.

Shanghai Customs will help to improve the experience for passengers from both home and abroad with a batch of innovative services, said Qiao Jinming, deputy director of the city’s customs.

“The customs’ clearance has been shortened to three seconds for each Chinese passenger from 15 seconds, and over 40 percent passengers can finish the entry clearance by self service,” said Li Guoguan, deputy head with the Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection.

Though the country’s cruise industry is developing in leaps and bounds, the number of foreign passengers is still small.

Shanghai immigration authorities have introduced a 15-day visa-free policy for foreign tourists arriving by cruise ships. They can travel to Beijing and coastal provinces where their cruises berth, said Li.

Inspection and quarantine pledge

Though the number of entry passengers has been enormous, the city’s inspection and quarantine pledged to build a solid prevention wall against diseases.

The authority has inspected 745 cruise liners this year, on over 2.8 million crew and passengers, said Jiang Yuan, deputy director with the Shanghai Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau.

To support the future development of the industry, the city’s industry and commerce authority encourages more companies to enter the cruising businesses, said Chen Xuejun, director of Shanghai Administration of Industry and Commerce.

The administration has issued a batch of new policies to lower the threshold for cruising related companies to enter the market and simplify the register process, Chen reveled.

Furthermore, green channels will be opened for consumers to protect their legal rights and solve the disputes on time.

The administration will also enhance the supervision on the cruising companies to publicize any discredit behaviors, Chen added.

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