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Cruise Industry Will Rebound, Port Commissioner Tells City Council

Cruise ships in the Port of San Diego.
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Above: Cruise ships in the Port of San Diego.

The cruise and maritime trade industries will rebound in San Diego in the coming years, a Port of San Diego commissioner told members of the City Council's Economic Development and Strategies Committee today.

Carnival Cruises, which is moving its only San Diego-based ship to Australia next month, is making millions of dollars worth of investments in Mexico that should pay off with the line returning vessels to Southern California, including San Diego, Commissioner Lee Burdick said.

"We still seem to be a port of call that is very attractive," Burdick said.

Cruise ships pulled into San Diego 104 times last year, and about 80 visits are projected this year, according to the commissioner. She said each port call results in an economic impact to San Diego of about $2 million.

The cruise industry has seen a 3 percent increase in business globally, outpacing other forms of travel, but Southern California has missed out because of the condition of the economy and fears over crime in Mexico, she said.

"We view this downturn as a great opportunity to invest in our infrastructure," Burdick said. "Not only do we see better construction rates during a downturn, but the worst time to be building on your cruise terminals is when you have cruise ships in port."

The City Council committee was formed last year to come up with ways to help local businesses grow so they can hire more workers. It meets monthly, focusing on different sectors of the local economy.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer said assisting the 600 or so port tenants, large or small, was important.

"We want to do everything we can to support those businesses that are on the tidelands," Councilman Kevin Faulconer said. "Everything from marine- serving industries, to restaurants, hotels, we're very fortunate to have the mix of uses with our port tenants."

Port officials believe that a marketing campaign in Asia will pay off with increased use of the 10th Avenue and National City Marine Terminals, Burdick said. The Port of San Diego ranks as the fourth busiest in California behind Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland, and is "a niche market" for ships loaded with cargo that can't fit in containers, like windmill components, she said.

"If you've ever seen these unloaded at 10th Avenue, it's like a ballet," Burdick said. That equipment would never fit in a container, she said.

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