Tourists could soon sail into Port of Sunderland, after bosses confirmed it was exploring opportunities that exist in the cruise market.
Port director, Matthew Hunt, said that – alongside its shipping and cargo operations - the port was ‘looking seriously’ at welcoming passenger ships, having already played host to a number of one-off port-calls in the past.
The comment comes after Port of Sunderland signed up to Cruise Britain, a business-to-business network for cruise ports looking to attract cruise ships to their shores.
Mr Hunt said: “Port of Sunderland has, for many years, welcomed and hosted cruise ships and their passengers, and it is a market we are interested in exploring further, because we can clearly see its potential and believe that the city and region has much to offer visitors.
“Though we’re taking very early steps into this market, having successfully hosted cruise ships before – and as the city continues to grow its offer, with stunning developments underway at our beautiful seaside and in the heart of the city - we hope to increase the frequency of cruise visits to the port in the coming years and add an exciting new dimension to our offer.”
Port of Sunderland last hosted a cruise ship in 2017, with MS Gann bringing scores of sightseers to Sunderland from Stavanger. The vessel docked in Sunderland in May – one of a number of stops it made – becoming the fifth passenger-carrying cruise ship to come into Sunderland in 40 years and the first since the turn of the century.
Mr Hunt said that the port’s move into the market will take time, but that the team are excited to welcome tourists to Sunderland.
He added: “Moving into the cruise and passenger ships market will allow the port to fully utilise existing infrastructure, bringing ships and their passengers to the city and the wider North East region.
“Though there will be limitations to the size of cruise ships that can visit the city - the port is looking at small to medium size ships and the expedition-cruise market – it’s an exciting chance to positively contribute to the city’s tourism economy. Cruise lines typically plan three years ahead, so joining Cruise Britain at this time helps to make our presence known across the industry and hopefully sets us up well for the future, when we see tourism return to pre-Covid levels.”
The move has been backed by chair of the port board and leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller.
He said: “Port of Sunderland is an increasingly important asset to the city, and one that can positively contribute to the wider economic development of Sunderland in so many ways.
“I warmly welcome the port exploring the cruise ships market. As someone who moved to the city to raise my family, I see the city for the incredible seaside destination it is. Our beaches stand up against any I have seen, our cultural assets are a huge draw – from the theatre to Washington Old Hall – and we have some stunning places to visit, from Penshaw Monument, to the National Glass Centre, and from our regenerating city centre to the rolling hills of Herrington Park. We have to start shouting about what we can offer, and I am pleased the port is flying the flag for the city.”