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Cognolato: “Cruises will fully bounce back in 2019” / INTERVIEW

IN 2019 the maritime terminal at the port of Naples will resume hosting the same number of cruise passengers it had in 2016, following a downturn suffered in 2017.

IN 2019 the maritime terminal at the port of Naples will resume hosting the same number of cruise passengers it had in 2016, following a downturn suffered in 2017. Looking ahead, the company that manages the terminal plans to build a new berth for latest-generation ships (over 300m), and a hotel within the port, for home port passengers and crews. And, meanwhile, road access improvements are proceeding on target, following a six-year period in which the port was under special administration, effectively freezing every major work project. The analysis comes from Tommaso Cognolato, CEO at Terminal Napoli SpA, the operator that has the concession for the terminal, jointly (and equally) with Royal Caribbean, Costa Crociere, Marinvest and Alilauro, and with MSC Cruises (which has a smaller share).

How’s business been going?

“In 2017 we experienced a downturn, which although felt throughout Italy, was even greater in Naples (-26%), as it impacted both the market and the repositioning of cruise lines. In 2018 we went through a strong recovery (+17%), reaching again the one-million passenger mark, and in 2019 we’re expecting to reach 2016 levels, or about 1.3 million passengers.”

Are the existing infrastructures sufficient for your needs?

“The facilities function okay at current traffic levels. The problem, common to all Italian cruise ports, is that some 70 cruise ships of over 300-meter length are about enter service. We do have one berth capable of accommodating this type of ship, but we’re currently in negotiations with the Authority’s chairman, Pietro Spirito, with a view to lengthening another berth.”

Have you got any investments planned?

“We’re upgrading the safety-checks equipment. We’ve completed three-quarters, and the total investment, worth 200,000 euro, should be completed in 2019. We are reclaiming some areas in disuse. In particular, we want to build a 250-bed hotel on a 3,000 square meters area, for the use of both the cruise passengers that use Naples as home port, and for the companies’ crew changeovers. It could also be of service for the Naples Convention Centre.”

The terminal is managed by some of the major players. Does this disadvantage the other companies?

“No, all shipping companies call at this port, not just ships from member lines. Naples is a popular destination. MSC and Costa use Naples to embark and disembark their passengers, this is their second port, after Genoa and Savona respectively. And, starting next year we will be the exclusive home port for the company Marella Cruises, too.”

What will this entail?

“1,500 cruise passengers from the UK will fly in every Wednesday via charter. We’re working closely with the airport to offer baggage delivery service directly to their cabin.”

So, you’re also generating business for the airport?

“Yes, and not just for the airport. The economic spin-off generated by the cruise industry is remarkable, everything from museums to souvenirs to restaurants. For on-land excursions, each ship is served by 40-80 coaches. Also some passengers choose to visit the historic centre on foot, by taxi or tourist coach, or take the shuttle bus to the Marcianise outlet mall, or visit the nearby islands, boarding the hydrofoil services, located 50 meters from the terminal, at the Beverello pier. Some 150 euro are spent locally per passenger.”