The sun is setting on another cruise season at Port Metro Vancouver. A total of approximately 812,000 passengers were welcomed, equaling the number seen during last year’s season. Scheduled vessel calls grew two per cent over the previous year, to 243. These included calls by the 3,000-passenger vessel Celebrity Solstice, one of the largest vessels sailing the Pacific. “It’s been a very successful year for the cruise industry and tourism, ” says Katherine Bamford, Director of Trade Development, noting there have been cruise vessels in port on all but 13 days during the peak season. The port also saw two new vessels, the Pacific Princess and the 3,000-passenger Crown Princess, calling Vancouver home. “These are indications of the confidence that cruise lines have in our port, that they want to call on Port Metro Vancouver,” says Bamford. It also reflects Vancouver’s selection as Top Homeport in North America for 2013, by TripAdvisor’s Editor’s Choice Awards.

While the 2014 season is coming to a conclusion, changes are planned for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The port’s overflow cruise facility, 100–year old Ballantyne Pier, is seeing a decline in calls, and as such is being retired. Consequently, all cruise operations will be consolidated at the award-winning cruise terminal, Canada Place.

To maximize efficiencies and capacities and enhance passenger experiences, Port Metro Vancouver looked to the results of a 2013 traffic flow study at the terminal. Recommendations were then analyzed through a collaborative process involving representatives of Port Metro Vancouver, Canada Place and the cruise industry. “Working together very closely,” says Bamford, “we selected the best options that will help us optimize passenger flows.”

These improvements include the addition of two new escalators and an elevator, both designed to help separate embarking from disembarking passengers. To improve passenger flow during unusually high-volume days, additional check-in and marshalling space has been secured in Hall C, located at the nearby Vancouver Convention Centre. “This is a creative and cost-effective way to meet our customers’ needs within the existing footprint,” adds Bamford, saying construction on the improvements will begin in mid-October and take approximately 18 months to complete. The port is also working closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to identify ways to expedite the customs entry process and reduce passenger wait times. Launched in 2009, with a third connection made operational at Canada place in 2013, shore power is proving to be another successful joint program. In fact, in collaboration with the Government of Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and BC Hydro, Port Metro Vancouver became the first port in Canada and only the third in the world to install shore power for cruise ships.

The program is benefiting both business and the environment. As a component of Port Metro Vancouver’s EcoAction program, shore-power enabled vessels can receive a 47 per cent discount on harbour dues. During the 2014 season, 98 of the 243 scheduled cruise vessels calling at the port were equipped with a shore power connection. Between the inception of the program in 2009 and the end of 2013, the use of shore power has reduced greenhouse gases in the port by more than 8,400 tonnes, equivalent to taking approximately 1,770 cars off the road for one year. “The cruise sector has been a leader in looking at ways to reduce emissions,” says Bamford. “You see a lot of low-sulphur fuel being used and they’ve been equally supportive of shore power. They’re really quite ahead from an emissions perspective.”