The port city of Durban’s status as a leading cruise destination was cemented on Saturday, 16 November with the arrival of the MSC ORCHESTRA cruise liner on her maiden voyage to South African shores, as well as a sod turning ceremony to mark the start of construction of the new Durban passenger terminal.

General Manager: Port of Durban, Moshe Motlohi, said the port’s cruise sector developments reflected growing confidence in Durban as a cruise prospect.

“We thank MSC Cruises for continuously deploying their cruise vessels to the South African market, which has increased our country’s cruise competitiveness.  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.”

MSC Orchestra at Port of Durban
MSC Orchestra at Port of Durban

He added, “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 KZN Integrated Maritime Industry Development Strategy launched onboard the MSC Sinfonia in 2013, which highlighted Maritime Tourism as a catalyst for economic development.”

MSC ORCHESTRA was ushered onto the quayside at the port’s M berth as traditional dancers and a marimba band entertained over 3000 disembarking European and South African passengers. Her Durban call ended a 29-night itinerary from Genoa in Italy and prior to Durban she had called in Reunion. The ship has been introduced on the local route following the success enjoyed by MSC Cruises with previous vessels including MSC SINFONIA, MSC OPERA and MSC MUSICA.

MSC ORCHESTRA was built in 2007 for MSC Cruises as the second ship of the Musica class and boasts 1,275 cabins.

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.

Thoko Mdluli, Malefetsane Setaka, Ross Volk, Moshe Motlohi and Nkululeko Mchunu
Thoko Mdluli, Malefetsane Setaka, Ross Volk, Moshe Motlohi and Nkululeko Mchunu

KCT holds a 25-year port concession from TNPA to finance, construct, operate, maintain and transfer the new Cruise Terminal Facility in the Port of Durban at an estimated value of more than R200 million. KCT has been finalising the detailed design of the Cruise Terminal Building and the anticipated commissioning of the project is 2020/21.

Motlohi said the new terminal development dovetails 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 commence construction on its own section of the promenade in Quarter 3 of 2020 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,” said Motlohi. “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,” he added.

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.

To ensure Durban’s readiness for the bumper festive season, TNPA has had its dredging vessel hard at work pumping sand along the new portion of the city’s Golden Mile which is expected to attracts tourists in their thousands. Sand collected by the dredger during TNPA’s usual harbour dredging operations is being discharged onto the new beach area from uShaka beach southwards towards the harbour entrance.

During the 2019/20 cruise season which runs from October 2019 until late April 2020, at least 23 luxury cruise ships operated by at least 17 international cruise lines are scheduled to call at the country’s six cruise ports. Of these, the Port of Durban is expected to welcome at least 17 cruise liners.

The port’s 2018/19 cruise season figures were up by 29.4% from 197 382 in 2017/18 to 255 422 in 2018/19.

Durban has held the title of Africa’s Leading Cruise Port for three consecutive years in the World Travel Awards for Africa and Indian Ocean.