The troubled waters through which cruise ships seem to be sailing in Panama, after complaints from shipping companies about a possible monopoly in the bunkering service to vessels in the ports, in addition to the alleged poor conditions of these facilities, returned to its level this Sunday when 7,254 tourists arrived in the country on the cruise ships Norwegian Jewel, Celebrity Constellation and Norwegian Sky.
As part of the cruise season 2022-2023, this business has an economic impact not only on transportation but also on hotels, stores, and restaurants, and, if lost, would cause millions of dollars in damages, said Enrique Clement, president of the Maritime Chamber of Panama.
According to the Panamanian Tourism Authority, cruise passengers bring in around US$2.2 million annually to the country, and those who arrive during the “home port” operation spend an average of US$250 per day on lodging, food, entertainment, internal transportation, among others, according to the Panama Tourism Authority.
The exclusivity in the bunkering service given to the company Monjasa S.A., which has put the activity at risk, has never been given in Panama or any port in the world, said Christoffer Pedersen, regional manager of Minerva Bunkering.
This Swiss company operates in 53 ports worldwide and is considered one of the main suppliers of maritime fuel supply.
The company that manages the Colon and Amador ports, Puertos de Cruceros de Colon 2000, S.A., avoided explaining the reasons for this decision despite multiple attempts by Bloomberg Linea.
Regarding the 2023-2024 cruise season, the Presidency of the Republic informed that the shipping line Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed that the Home Port of Panama continues to be one of the favorites of cruise passengers for the experience of transiting the Panama Canal.
According to the official press release, the shipping company maintains for-sale operations with departures from Panama City until December 2024.
Recently, Norwegian Cruise Line announced that for the 2024-2025 season, Panama’s itineraries included as Home Port had been canceled.
The itineraries “were planned, and in the end, they were taken out”, said Sandy Cohen, representative of the cruise line in Panama.
Cohen said he did not know the reasons for the cruise line to leave Panama but did not rule out that it was due to poor service in the ports or to an accident registered in the port of Amador, in the Pacific, last December, which left several cruise passengers injured.
This Saturday, 2,390 Norwegian Jewel cruise ship tourists, owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, docked at the Amador Cruise Port after a southern transit through the Panama Canal.
The following day, 4,856 tourists disembarked and boarded the Norwegian Jewel at the Amador Cruise Terminal home port; disembarkation began at 5:00 am, while the embarkation of 2,466 passengers began at 10:30 am.
This floating hotel will depart to Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, to continue its journey through the Caribbean.
Over the weekend, the Norwegian Sky cruise ship, owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, and the Celebrity Constellation, operated by Celebrity Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Group, also docked at Port Colon 2000 in the Caribbean.
The Norwegian Cruise Line ship, with 1,198 passengers, arrived on Saturday at 6:30 am at Gatun Lake, where its guests disembarked for various sightseeing tours while the ship continued its transit to the Colon 2000 terminal.
The economic spillover produced by the arrival of cruise ships is a valuable resource for the country, especially for the reactivation and planning of the service provided by large and small industries, supplying all kinds of inputs of local production or imported quality, from vegetables and fruits, seafood, sausages, eggs, and craft beers, among others, said the deputy administrator of the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP), Denise Guillén.
Therefore, the Maritime Chamber of Panama questioned that neither the Maritime Authority nor the ATP made a statement regarding the withdrawal of Norwegian Cruise Line for the 2024 – 2025 season.
Royal Caribbean, Azamara, Ponant, Norwegian, Scenic, Hurtigruten, Wind Star, and Star Clippers are the cruise lines that call port in Panama.
With information from Bloomberg