Puerto Madryn cruise industry future looks bleak


Puerto Madryn in Argentine Patagonia expects a considerable fall in the number of cruise calls following Norwegian Cruise Lines decision to stop operating in the Valparaíso/Buenos Aires tour in the next 2010/2011 season.

Local authorities believe this could mean ten cruise calls less and the absence of 20.000 visitors, which means that since the global recession begun in 2008 cruise activity in Puerto Madryn has been cut by almost half.

“From an average fifty cruise calls the season will be reduced to 25, in 2010/11” said David De Bunder head of Puerto Madryn port operations, quoted by the local press.

However De Bunder said that local authorities will be appealing to Norwegian Cruise Lines since this year all vessels are fully booked and the company is enjoying “a very successful season” and maybe “they should be thinking about chartering vessels if they already have other plans for their own vessels”.

De Bunder said that Norwegian Cruise Lines argued that three main reasons have forced them to take such drastic decision.

“The access toll to the port of Buenos Aires through the Mitre Canal and the Chilean piloting costs along the Beagle Channel are simply too unrealistically high, plus the fact that the Malvinas government bans from its waters all vessels powered by heavy fuel, have forced the Norwegians to abandon this route”, revealed De Bunder.

Most cruise vessels calling in Puerto Madryn will cease crossing to Malvinas “which imposed the heavy fuel ban for environmental protection reasons”.

Cruise vessels to navigate in Malvinas waters will need to be powered by lighter fuel, which is far more expensive than heavy oil plus the fact most of the Norwegian Cruise Lines do not comply with these conditions.

Some of the options which Norwegian Cruise Lines should consider according to De Bunder is chartering a smaller vessel, or one similar to Norwegian Crown, which carries 1.500 passengers and is powered by light fuel and could then sail to the Malvinas Islands.

“The fact is that the Valaparaiso/Buenos Aires cruise has become extremely popular and is fully booked, so I personally think that Norwegian Lines is reconsidering its decision”, said De Bunder. But so far the last official information is that next season (2010/11) the company will not be cruising South Atlantic waters, he added.

Another option for Puerto Madryn is that other cruise lines cover the vacuum left by Norwegian, “for example Holland America Line that this year has returned with the Veendam, or Costa Cruceros, or AIDA Cruises, which only called in Buenos Aires and has announced Puerto Madryn for next season”.