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Canals of Amsterdam (Photo: Jorge Oliver)

Amsterdam Votes to Ban Cruise Ships; Additional Steps Still Required

Canals of Amsterdam (Photo: Jorge Oliver)
Jeannine Williamson

Jul 27, 2023

Read time
3 min read

(11 a.m. EDT) – Amsterdam City Council has voted to shut down the cruise terminal in what it says is a bid to curb pollution and a drive to reduce tourist numbers.

However, the ban would have to go through additional levels phases of approval before going through.

The Cruise Lines International Association — the advocacy group for cruise lines — said in a statement that a ban is unlikely; instead, they are working with Amsterdam to move the the port outside of the city center.

"As the port has publicly stated, cruise ships have not been banned from Amsterdam," the statement read. "Furthermore, the port and Passenger Terminal Amsterdam have already pledged to undertake investments worth millions of Euros in port infrastructure and shoreside electricity for the long-term. There have been discussions on its relocation outside the city centre which started back in 2016 and which are still ongoing.

"We are working with the authorities to accommodate the views expressed by Council members while continuing to support the communities that benefit from cruise tourism. Of the more than 21 million visitors that Amsterdam receives each year, around 1% arrive by cruise ship, with cruise tourism contributing around 105 million Euros to the city annually."

If a ban were enacted, it could affect numerous cruise lines — including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, P&O Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line — which operate the 100-plus ships that dock in Amsterdam each year. The ban would not not affect river cruise vessels.

In 2019 the city introduced a tourist tax on cruise ship passengers which, at the time, led to lines including MSC Cruises, P&O Cruises and Cunard replacing or canceling calls at Amsterdam.

Timescale is Uncertain on When the Terminal Will Close

Crowds line the Hotel New York to see Rotterdam depart from Rotterdam (Photo: Harriet Baskas)

The timescale for the proposed closure of the terminal, which is conveniently located next to Amsterdam's main railway station and close to Schiphol airport, is uncertain. Alternative ports for visits to Amsterdam are Ijmuiden, 18 miles west of the city, or Rotterdam, which is more than an hour away by coach.

"The municipality of Amsterdam is going to investigate how this proposal can be implemented," a spokesperson for the Amsterdam Tourist Board told Cruise Critic.

"This has to be discussed with our partners within the North Sea Canal area. This will take some time, so at the moment we cannot give any details on how or when the proposal will be implemented."

Dick de Graaff, managing director of Cruise Port Amsterdam, which operates the terminal, said: "We have taken note of the council's call that they do not see any room for sea cruises in the city of the future at the current location. There is certainly no immediate ban on ships, let alone an immediate closure of the terminal.

"The city's executive branch still needs to work out the details and it was unclear when the measure might be implemented. No years have been mentioned. We will await the reaction of the alderman on how to proceed with the wish of the city council in the search for a new spot."

Port Closure Part of a Wider Drive to Limit Tourist Numbers

The Giudecca Canal During Early Morning Summer Day (Photo: Nikolay Antonov/Shutterstock)

Politicians voted in favor of the "Amsterdam sails better without the cruise" motion put forward by Ilana Rooderkerk, leader of the *Democrats 66 (*D66) party.

In a statement she said: "The polluting cruise does not match the sustainable ambitions of our city. The realization of a second bridge over the IJ (river) to the Noord district is also not possible if the cruise ships remain. In addition, cruise ships in the city centre do not fit into Amsterdam's assignment to reduce the number of tourists."

The move follows Italian authorities banning cruise ships from entering Venice and a limit on vessels calling at Dubrovnik in Croatia.

Rooderkerk claimed since Venice banned cruise ships two years ago air pollution from sulphur emissions has dropped by 80%.

"The climate will not wait. In other words, now is the time for action. Various sectors must contribute to this, including the cruise," she added.

The ban proposal doesn't make mention of the strides the cruise industry has publicly committed to regarding curbing pollution, reducing emissions and combating climate change. Cruise line members of CLIA have vowed to be carbon-footprint free by 2050, and several report they will do so sooner.

Cruise Lines React to Terminal Closure Announcement

ambience livery

Cruise lines are now looking at the implications of the decision and the effect on planned sailings to Amsterdam.

An Ambassador Cruise Line spokesperson told Cruise Critic: "We are studying the detail behind this morning's news reports and are investigating possible alternatives to the Port of Amsterdam. Any changes to our published itineraries will be shared with our guests as a priority."

Updated July 27, 2023
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