#DublinsBiggestShip – Dublin Port is to have the biggest ever ship of any type to call when cruiseship MSC Splendida of all 137,926 gross tonnes is to make her Irish debut instead of anchoring firstly offshore of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, writes Jehan Ashmore.
According to Dublin Port Company CEO Eamon O'Reilly, who was speaking at the recent Dublin Bay Conference which was held in the Gibson Hotel overlooking the site of the proposed €30m cruise terminal, the MSC Splendida is to call on 11 May, the same day original scheduled for her anchorage call off Dun Laoghaire.
It is not known why the huge 18-deck 'Fantasia' class 333m long cruiseship has swapped ports, though there are many variables in the shipping industry over the re-scheduling of vessels.
Having said that MSC Splendida is to call offshore of Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the 21st May of the following week. When she does the 3,900 passenger accommodation vessel makes her the largest in capacity terms of this seasons record breaking 22 cruiseships calling within the harbour and anchoring offshore.
Added to the MSC Splendida's tourists will be a crew of around 1,370 which is close to that of the 1,500 passenger former Dun Laoghaire-Holyhead fast-ferry HSS Stena Explorer.
This leaves another massive cruiseship, Royal Princess of 142,714 tonnes (see, Belfast's biggest caller 2014) to become the first caller this season for the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company when she takes anchorage in south Dublin Bay on 12th May. The 330m cruiseship has a 3,560 passenger capacity.
Another yet repeat caller is Cunard's Line's flagship cruise 'liner' Queen Mary 2 (QM2) which at 151,000 tonnes and 2,600 passengers is due to call offshore on 20th May, the day before MSC Spendida's inaugural call.
The QM2 is 61.9m high while the MSC Splendida is even higher towering at almost 70m. Such-sized ships and larger could enter Dun Laoghaire Harbour as proposed by the €18m single cruise-berth in which the DLHC are understood to lodge this month a planning application accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to An Bord Pleanala.
MSC Splendida is operated by MSC Cruises, the passenger arm of the Mediterranean Shipping Company that run container services to Dublin Port. When she calls, the massive cruiseship is to enter the port entrance astern, this is due to current restrictions of the port layout and the relationship to her sheer size and water depth notably when berthing in the confines of Alexandra Basin. This area of the port forms part of the port's 'Masterplan 2040' as the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) reconfiguration project is to cost €200m.
The arrival of MSC Splendida will be a clear demonstration as to why the Dublin Port Company propose the €30m cruise terminal facility. The double cruise-berth facility is to accommodate such ships and those of the next generation mega cruiseships. A decision from An Bord Pleanala over the proposed cruise terminal and associated EIS is already currently underway.
Aside all the focus on cruiseships due to the controversary of potentially having two new cruise terminals in Dublin Bay totalling almost €50m, one could easily forget the real driver of the economy is that of cargoships exporting our trade.
As such increasing larger deeper drafted cargoships also need to enter Alexandra Basin and elsewhere in the port. This is where the rest of the masterplan is to meet the rising demands of the shipping industry coupled with economies of scale and capacity demands as record trade figures are broken and are forecast.