Disembarking target exacting

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Fifteen minutes

That is the target for Port Otago staff when a cruise ship berths at the Port Chalmers or Dunedin ports, general manager, commercial Peter Brown says.
‘‘The key performance indicator for Port Otago is getting that ship tied up, gangway alongside and passengers on the wharf within 15 minutes. That is what we’re judged on by the cruise lines.”The first cruise ship of the season, Sun Princess, is due to arrive at Port Chalmers next Thursday and a long list of items had to be ticked off in preparation, Mr Brown said.
“Making sure the gangways are all in good repair, that they’ve been surveyed and approved by engineers and that the carpet on them is all shipshape, right through to the traffic management plan that we put in place on the wharf in our building areas through to signage being right.” All preparations were to ensure the efficient movement of passengers off the ship so they could quickly begin their tourist excursions throughout the city, he said.
Asked what might go wrong in the usually slick process of preparing a ship for passengers to disembark, Mr Brown said occasionally ship masters failed to place their vessel in the correct spot. This could cause a delay because the gangway would have to be rebuilt, which was not as simple with larger vessels as with smaller ones.
The finely tuned operation left little margin for error if the 15-minute target was to be met.
“Even just a couple of metres away could be a problem for us.”
The process of having passengers disembark was likely to take longer than usual if this occurred, Mr Brown said. However, that did not happen very often, he said.
He had worked for Port Otago for 10 years and in that time had seen significant growth in cruise ship numbers. When he started with Port Otago, about 40 ships berthed at Dunedin and Port Chalmers, but this season 87 would berth at the ports between October 13 and April 12, when the last ship for the season was due. The growth in cruise ship numbers, however, had not been consistent. “The global financial crisis saw ship numbers decrease a little bit and then they’ve come back up again,” Mr Brown said.
Cruise ship journeys had been seen as the exclusive province of elderly people, but this had changed during his tenure, Mr Brown said.
“Most people think of cruise passengers as being 70 plus, not very mobile and it is changing – the average age for cruise passengers now is probably in the mid-50s. Some of the cruise lines are trying to encourage mum and dad and the two kids with grandma and grandpa as well to all travel together.”
This meant cruise ship passengers were looking to partake in more active tourist pursuits, something that had been relayed in passenger surveys, Mr Brown said.
“What they were looking for was more personalised things to do with the natural environment, harbour-based activity, kayaking, exploring the harbour, getting up close and personal with our wildlife.”

Asked what set Dunedin apart from other cruise destinations, Mr Brown said it was the city’s natural environment and heritage buildings.