Rush of large cruise ships prompts plans to upgrade Nakagusuku Port

Authorities at Okinawa Prefecture General Bureau are reportedly mulling a plan to upgrade port facilities at Nakagusuku Port to accommodate large cruise liners up to 160,000 tons.

The bureau has created a committee consisting of experts in marine traffic to discuss about security and other relevant issues at the port. The committee is tasked to clarify possible problems by this fall, based on which the prefecture will make a decision on the feasibility of the plan. If the plan comes true, it’s expected to lead to significant increase in the number of visitors from cruise ships, as the Naha Port has already reached its capacity.

So far only Naha Port is able to accommodate 160,000-ton class cruise ships, and it has seen an increasing number of bookings. There have been cases that the port has refused ships due to scheduling conflicts, leading some shipping companies to inquire the prefecture about a possibility of accepting large ships at Nakagusuku Port.

In 2016, cruise ships moored at Nakagusuku Port eight times, and six of the port calls were by “Superstar Libra” that is a 40,000-ton class ship. According to Okinawa Prefecture, Nakagusuku Port can accommodate cruise ships up to 50,000-ton level from fiscal 2017.

The Okinawa General Bureau is scheduled to start the construction of a wharf in Naha for large cruise ships. Them bidding process for the plan has a June deadline, and the construction would start as soon as they the winning bids are accepted.

In 2016, cruise ships made 387 port calls to Okinawa that was the most ever and 77% increase from the previous year. It also made Okinawa national No.1 before Fukuoka that had 337 port calls.