#DublinCruiseRecord – A historic day for Dublin Port as the biggest ever ship to dock, MSC Splendida of more than 137,000 tonnes and towering 18 decks called this morning with the massive cruiseship entering the port 'stern' first or in reverse, writes Jehan Ashmore.
The Mediterranean Shipping Company's (MSC) Cruises 3,200 passenger / 1,370 crew cruiseship had sailed overnight from Greenock, on the Firth of Clyde.
Her call is another leap for the port as Grand Princess in 2004 marked a major maritime milestone as the first ship to exceed 100,000 tonnes complete with a gravity defying disco.
The MSC Splendida can boast too as she features Turkish baths!... offering the utlimate in luxury but only to those who join the MSC Yacht Club, an excusive ship within a ship experience.
MSC Splendida's maiden call to Dublin Port also became the longest cruiseship to visit at 333 metres as she ranks as the 11th longest in the world. These impressive dimensions have pushed the port's operational limits as previously explained today on Afloat.ie and below.
Currently the port can only handle ship lengths of up to 300m which is why the 'Fantasia' class MSC Splendida could not sail up the channel normally, nor be able to use the turning circle prior to entering Alexandra Basin due to the confined quay layout space on such a longer ship.
Instead, MSC Splendida was skilfully edged astern or backwards within Alexandra Basin to berth No.33. This sees the bow already face the River Liffey in readiness for a straightforward departure this evening (from 7 pm) from Ocean Pier that separates both Alexandra Basins (West where docked) and that of neighbouring East basin.
However, back in 2002, the same procedure of bringing a cruiseship in reverse through Dublin Port's entrance involved Royal Caribbean Line's Brilliance of the Seas of 90,000 tonnes that docked also at Alexandra's berth No.33. At the time the brand 'Millennium' class newbuild was also the longest cruiseship to Dublin Port at 295 metres.
Likewise of MSC Splendida, this required a lot of preparation prior to handling such a vessel despite then there being leeway in terms of length for the 'Brilliance' to swing in the turning circle leading into Alexandra Basin. It is understood however that during the call then more than a decade ago, that there was insufficient depth for the 'Brilliance' notably on the river side outside the basin to allow for safe navigation of the turning circle into Alexandra Basin.
On a related note, further dredging would be required as DPC's proposed Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) Project and associated EIS is currently under review with An Bord Pleanala. The ABR is intended to transform phase one of the port Masterplan so to allow larger and deeper drafted ships of all types, including the world's largest cruise ships, to routinely call to Dublin Port.
In the case of cruise ships, they will berth upriver at a proposed €30m double-cruise berth terminal next to the East Link Bridge along the North Wall Quay Extension. The second berth would be within Alexandra Basin which would be accessed by an expanded turning circle that faces the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club Marina.
The proposed terminal would handle the world's top ten largest cruise liners, including those such as Royal Caribbean Line's 360m long Allure of the Seas. This is a mega 'Quantum' class cruiseship of 168,000 tonnes and carrying almost 5,000 passengers.
As previously reported, only the Port of Cork's cruise terminal at Cobh can handle these much larger cruiseships, though the port company are not expecting such callers until the 2017 cruises season.