RCL steps up port investment, this time in Penang

Penang Port will collaborate with Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) in a joint venture to upgrade and improve Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal in Georgetown, Penang, to accommodate berthing of larger cruise ships at its facilities. The 60/40 joint venture will be jointly managed by both parties, with the majority stake held by Penang Port.

This is the second time in weeks that RCL has announced its involvement in a South-east Asian port. At the recent Seatrade, it reportedly sealed a partnership with the Philippine Department of Tourism in the Aklan province to build a purpose-built cruise ship terminal in the Western Visayas’ Caticlan or Boracay. Details of the collaboration are still sketchy.

Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal

When contacted, Adam Goldstein, president and COO of RCC: “We have conversations with ports and countries all the time around the world about infrastructure development. It is premature for us to say anything about our commercial development plans for the Philippines.”

In Penang, however, a statement issued by RCC said plans include extending the existing berths to 688m from its current length of 400m. This will enable the terminal to berth two mega cruise liners carrying over 4,900 passengers each at any one time, in line with the industry requirement as Penang comes of age as a “choice port of call” for international cruise operators.

In addition, the redevelopment will include spaces for tour buses to ease the flow of traffic in the areas around the Swettenham terminal. The US$35 million project will further focus on improving accessibility for the aged and physically challenged throughout the terminal from ship to shore.

“This planned development has received unyielding support from both state and federal government and associated government agencies including tourism bodies, and will be a focal part of Malaysian Tourism EPP6 plan to create a Straits and Borneo Cruise Riviera,” it said.

The ability to handle more and larger cruise vessels in Swettenham Pier will entrench Penang as a major cruise destination in the region, it added.

RCL is scheduled to make 38 calls in Penang in 2017.

This isn’t the first time RCL is investing in ASEAN cruise ports. In 2015, it invested in upgrading Vietnam’s Chan May Port in order to accommodate larger ships like its Voyager and Quantum Class ships, according to a spokesman.

In a recent interview with TTG Asia, Goldstein said the more the China and Australia markets expand, the more there will be new ports, ships and itineraries in those regions, and the greater the need is to develop cruising in South-east Asia to redeploy the ships there in the winter months.

Infrastructure development is going to be one of the most significant undertakings in the region over the coming years, he said. “We are planning to invest in the region in commercial development without question. It’s part of what we do,” said Goldstein.

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