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Last Cruise Ship Visit Gives Tourism a Blow

Date Posted: 2000-09-15

The 40,000-ton Star Aquarius, the largest cruise liner in Asia, will make its last port call in Naha on October 10. The ship that accommodates up to 1,900 passengers has been sailing between Okinawa and Taiwan, and the ship’s operators, the Star Cruise Lines of Singapore, say that the lack of proper passenger facilities in Naha Port is a major obstacle to attracting sufficient number of customers. The company says that it has accumulated losses totaling several million dollars.

The company plans to operate the ship between Taiwan and Thailand from October. However, they say that they are willing to consider returning to Okinawa in April, possibly sailing between Okinawa and Shanghai in China. Another possibility is to bring a smaller ship for the route. Among problems cited by officials at Star Cruises are several instances where tourists had to wait inside the ship for a container ship to be unloaded on a berth next to the cruise liner. In some instances the port authority ordered the cruise liner to return to the sea to wait for a cargo ship to dock or sail out of the port.

Officials at Okinawa Tourism and Resort Bureau concede that ending the ship’s visits will have a major impact on the prefecture’s tourist industry. The ship has brought annually 250,000 visitors to the prefecture from Taiwan. According to their statistics, 92 percent of visitors from Taiwan come by ship. They also say that they are considering measures to attract the cruise ship back including constructing new port facilities and giving discounts on port and towing fees.

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