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Embarrassment as massive cruise ship decides against docking in Portimão

It was billed as such a feather in the town’s cap: the huge Seven Seas Explorer luxury cruiseliner was due to arrive in Portimão on Friday, bringing with it 750 passengers eager to see and enjoy all the local delights that time allowed.

Taxi-vessels had been laid on and restaurants and other businesses were looking forward to another spike in summer trade.

But it never happened.

A combination of sea-swell and a captain dubious of Portimão’s logistical preparedness for his 224-metre long vessel saw the Seven Seas Explorer decide the risks simply were not worth it.

Looking very much like a floating apartment block, the 400 million euro vessel continued on its 10-day cruise, leaving in its wake a veritable sea of recriminations.

The truth is the captain made the right decision. As national tabloid Correio da Manhã explains, the port has a docking area for boats of up to 215 metres long – that is, nine less than Seven Seas Explorer.

Despite assurances by the administration of Sines and Algarve ports that “all necessary conditions” existed, they quite clearly were at a pinch.

“The last boat of this dimension that docked here was 8 or 9 centimetres less than the maximum draft (of 8.5 metres) and there were no problems”, ports authority boss João Franco told reporters.

Seven Seas Explorer’s draft is 7.10 metres, the paper explains. Thus, in theory, it should have been fine to enter the docking terminal, if only nine metres too long for it.

But that was not taking into account Friday’s choppy conditions, nor local businesses’ beef that the €10 million investment promised to prepare the terminal for this league of luxury lines is three years overdue.

Franco poured oil on the already troubled waters by saying that “the business of cruise ships is not very interesting” to his authority – although he conceded that it might be for the local economy.

“If community funding is not forthcoming, we will pay”, he told CM.

“The works need to be done and we have the financial means”, he said, adding that improvements could be expected “between 2017 and 2018”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com