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Seattle overtakes Vancouver as busiest cruise ship port

Increased competition from Seattle, infrastructure upgrades at other ports in B.C. and a new tax in Alaska are all causing Vancouver’s prominence as a cruise ship destination to decline. According to preliminary port-related data for 2010 from BC Stats and various port authorities, Seattle overtook Vancouver as busiest port of call for cruise ships in the Pacific Northwest in a year in which sailings to Vancouver dropped 31% and passenger volumes dropped 36%.

In 2001, Seattle experienced one-sixth of the passenger volume Vancouver experienced.

Vancouver, which had reclaimed the status of busiest cruise ship port in the Pacific Northwest from Seattle in 2009, remains B.C.’s busiest port of call for cruise ships.

However, while total passenger volumes in B.C. have risen 21% since 2001, Vancouver experienced a 15% decline in passenger volume and a 23% decline in sailing berths during that time frame.

Whereas 90% of all passenger traffic in the province in 2001 went through Vancouver’s two cruise ship terminals at Canada Place and Ballantyne, Vancouver’s share of cruise ship traffic in the province fell to 63% in 2009.

Explaining Vancouver’s decade-long decline, a BC Stats report said aside from mounting competition from Seattle, smaller ports in B.C., such as Prince Rupert, have capitalized on their logistical advantages over Vancouver following infrastructure upgrades.

Victoria, which is a popular port of call for cruises between cities in California, Oregon and Washington and destinations in Alaska, experienced a 283% increase in passenger volumes between 2001 and 2009, to 452,000 passengers.

Victoria now gets a third of the province’s cruise-related passenger traffic, compared to 10% in 2001.

As well as the lagging effects of the economic downturn in 2009 and parts of 2010, another problem facing the cruise industry in B.C. is a passenger head-tax that came into effect.

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