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Source: Gulf Daily News
Author: Mandeep Singh
Bahrain could dramatically slash port fees for cruise vessels to offset massive insurance premiums.
Authorities may also reduce other charges to ensure the upcoming cruise season goes ahead in October as ships dock at Khalifa bin Salman Port, sources told the GDN.
Representatives of stakeholders met Culture Ministry officials yesterday following revelations that the season could be in jeopardy after insurance companies said they would charge at least $15,000 (BD5,675) extra for every vessel that berths in the country.
This would mean each cruise operator could pay as much as $300,000 (BD113,129) extra per season.
“Assuming the premiums are still charged, the special facilities being made available would more than offset the costs,” the sources said.
“This way, the vessels would end up paying the same as they always did, if not less.”
The sources said a final decision on the incentives would be taken within a week.
“The government is very serious about the threat we could face without a cruise season,” they added.
“All efforts are being made to ensure no such thing happens.”
Earlier, other sources said Bahrain’s tourism authorities were hoping to have a full cruise season given the last one was scrapped half way through because of last year’s unrest.
Only 29 of the scheduled 50 port calls by various liners were made in Bahrain after the season was abruptly suspended due to the unrest, which resulted in a loss of nearly 50,000 tourists.
None of the large cruise liners that were due to make at least three calls a week docked following the outbreak of clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in mid-February last year.
Tour operators said the cancellations meant losses of at least $5 million (BD1.9m) in tourist spending alone.
According to estimates, each cruise ship tourist spends at least $125 (BD47) during visits to Bahrain. The GDN reported in 2010 that Bahrain was hoping for a $21m (BD7.9m) windfall as a result of the country’s booming cruise ship industry. Every vessel that berths in Bahrain could be worth around $300,000 (BD113,400) to the economy, said Seatrade Middle East at the start of the cruise season.