The cruise industry is booming, and trips to Antarctica are particularly popular. The port of Ushuaia is betting that a major expansion will give it an edge as it seeks to expand its market lead
The port of Ushuaia in Argentina has announced plans for a second extension of its main pier to a length of 800 metres, as part of an effort to offer more space for the increasing number of cruise ships visiting the region and to keep up with the growth of ships, some of which now carry several thousand passengers.
Last summer, 687 cruise ships carrying 580,000 passengers called on Argentine ports, an increase of almost 5% on the previous year.
The numbers for Ushuaia are particularly impressive; in 2019, it recorded 450 arrivals and 130,000 passengers. During the 2022-23 season, the number increased to 503 ships and 226,435 passengers and crew. Of these, 451 port calls were voyages to Antarctica. For the 2023-24 season, an increase of 10% is forecast.
Ushuaia is the southernmost city in South America and is considered the a gateway to Antarctica. Ushuaia sees the expansion as a way to keep its position and boost a tourism industry that creates 80,000 jobs.
The planned expansion comes after recently completed 125-metre extension that brought its total lenght to 625 metres, adding space for an additional two cruise ships. Construction took 18 months and cost €7.2 million.
Now the city is trying to organise financing for another extension, this one by 200 metres, in the hopes that will allow some 8,000 passengers a day to land at the port. The next phase of expansion will include a new customs office, a VIP room and passenger security screening facilities. There will also be shops and a cultural space to provide information about Antarctica.
The most recent expansion has proved inadequate in the face of a growing industry, according to Dante Querciali, the president of Infueter, the tourism institute of Tierra del Fuego. “Sometimes this meant that not all passengers could disembark. With the expansion, we want ships to be able to plan longer stays, as well as to offer them better services in terms of food supplies, fuel refills, waste disposal etc.”
“The expansion and investment underscore the port’s focus on tourism. The long-term goal is to keep this port exclusively for tourism operations and move all commercial and fishing activities to another location,” Mr Querciali said.
Ushuaia’s cruise port has already confirmed 591 arrivals in 2023-24, and 250 cruise ships for next season, when the port expects a 10% increase compared to the previous year, according to Roberto Murcia, head of the Tierra del Fuego provincial port authority.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal