Shanghai is the world’s biggest cargo port and its second biggest container port. Over the past 15 years it has become a massive international port, finance and economic metropolis. And now it wants to attract cruises from across the world. An impressive glass and steel construction opened right in the middle of Hongkou in August -- Shanghai’s new international cruise terminal.
Tourists disembark cruise ship Princess Sapphire in Shanghai
It is about one o’clock in the afternoon. Waiting hall no. 1 is full of excited passengers about to board the Italian Costa Allegra cruise ship to Japan and Korea. 35-year-old businessman Feng Hao, who is waiting to check in with his wife and child, says:
„It’s our family holiday. We want to relax and enjoy our holidays. In Europe mostly older people go on cruises but in China it’s mainly the younger generation that is attracted to them."
Mr Feng paid 30,000 yuan, about 3,000 euros, for a top category five-day family cruise. Hu Minglan took a cruise on the Costa Allegra on her own last year; but this time she’s decided to bring her whole family along:
„I think we’re gradually adopting the international lifestyle. We used to see Europeans taking cruises on television. Now that we are becoming richer we also want to enjoy these things."
High growth expected
Some 100 international luxury liners are expected to moor in Shanghai this year, bringing about 150,000 tourists to the port city. They will all moor at the new terminal with its water front length of 880 metres that can berth four ships at the same time. The state company Shanghai International Port Group invested 180 million euros into building the terminal, explains company spokesman Michael Sun:
„Shanghai is on its way to becoming an international finance centre. We’re actually a company that builds container ports such as the Yangshan Deep Water Port. Until now Shanghai lacked a port for international cruise ships."
Several cruise companies have opened offices in Shanghai over the past few years in order to cash in on China’s growing taste for luxury. They expect an annual growth rate of 30 to 35 percent.
Still waiting for customers
However, at the moment the terminal is almost deserted for most of the week. An international cruise ship moors there every five days only. One of the reasons is the heightened amount of typhoons during the summer. But there is another problem, says cruise expert Xu Yongchun:
"Another disadvantage are the stopovers. In Europe or in Singapore there are lots of other ports which can also be visited. But here ports in Japan or South Korea are still quite far from Shanghai. And the target group is still not very big here. In Singapore, domestic travellers don’t even make up half of the passengers, the majority are international passengers."
The Shanghai Port Group took account of all this in its calculations. Spokesman Michael Sun explains the terminal was also built to boost the local economy and to make sure the value of buildings in the area would appreciate:
„We built six office buildings on the land, which we sold one after the next. People love the view of the Huangpu River and the fact that they can work right next to the terminal. The cruises attract the world’s elite to Shanghai. That’s good for business and for the company’s image. We’re not making any money with the terminal. It’s just there to boost the local economy."