Christchurch Port Closed to Most Cruise Ships for Next Two Seasons

October 19, 2012
(10:45 a.m. EDT) -- Lyttelton, the port for Christchurch, New Zealand will not be taking bookings for the majority of cruise vessels during the 2013/2014 cruise season.

The announcement by Lyttelton Port Company follows a decision in March 2012 to defer the development of new cruise berth facilities for Christchurch. Designs for the facilities, announced in 2010, are being revised to account for earthquake damage and increased seismic activity in the region, and the modifications are likely to increase the cost of the facility by approximately 40 percent.

An earthquake in February 2011 measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale -- along with multiple major aftershocks -- caused damage to the area that runs into the "hundreds of millions of dollars" according to a statement on the Lyttelton Port Company Web site. Disruptions to the port's normal operations caused by the earthquakes meant that another port in the region, Akaroa, has taken over the bulk of calls from larger cruise ships.

LPC Chief Executive Peter Davie said the decision not to take bookings was necessary in order for the cruise port to be built safely and up to international standards.

“When we do this cruise berth development, we need to do it right," Davie said. "If we don't get this right and fail to provide an experience of international standard then we not only put at risk the reputation of Lyttelton but also of New Zealand as a cruise destination.”

The statement also noted that some cruise lines had already decided to continue calling at Akaroa for at least another year due to the uncertainty around the completion date for the cruise berth facilities. The port is currently slated to host over 80 cruise ship calls through April 2013.

The 2013/2014 cruise season in New Zealand runs during the Northern Hemisphere's winter, and larger ships will likely continue to call at Akaroa, some 50 miles from Christchurch, at least until March of 2014.

There are nearly 60 cruises scheduled to call at Lyttelton through March 2013, including Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Holland America's Oosterdam and P&O Arcadia.

--Jamey Bergman, U.K. Production Editor