Arrival of a princess will help strengthen Chatham’s cruise offering

The cruise industry contributes billions of pounds a year to the UK economy. Peel Ports has long offered key cruise destinations in the shape of Liverpool and Greenock, which between them welcome more than 230,000 passengers a year.

Growing our cruise business is central to our strategic Group plans and we are constantly looking at investments which will attract cruise operators to our ports, and create unique destinations that passengers want to visit.

Chatham in Kent is one such destination, and we have been working closely with leading UK cruise agent Denholm Wilhelmson since January 2014 to forge a revival of the cruise market in the area.

The recent arrival of the Hebridean Princess, a 72m long five star luxury cruise liner, into Chatham this month, marked a significant milestone in our revival plans, as she become the second ship to visit in less than three months.

The first to visit was Swan Hellenic’s Minerva in June carrying 340 passengers as part of a 15 night trip around the British Isles.

It has been more than five years since the last cruise ship, Fred Olsen’s Black Prince, called at Chatham in 2009 and news of a potential revival has made waves within the local and national press.

Historically Chatham Docks is well known for its long history of shipbuilding. Since opening in 1664, hundreds of famous warships, vessels and submarines, including HMS Victory, have been built or restored at Chatham. More recently it has been predominantly used for freight, handling a variety of cargo.

But what many people don’t know is that Chatham Docks was also a popular calling point for cruise passengers. Back in the 1950s, the Medway Queen allowed locals a day trip from Sun Pier to Southend and Herne Bay in the days when for many people a week’s holiday away from home remained a dream.

With the UK cruise industry going from strength to strength, now is the perfect time for us to look at marketing Chatham as a destination for cruise operators once again.

We are looking at our current facilities and infrastructure to identify areas of potential development which will help facilitate this revival and attract more and more ships to the area over the coming years.

The success of Minerva’s and now the Hebridean Princess’ visit shows that Chatham is perfectly placed to cater for niche cruises, offering a unique historical destination for passengers, as well as gateway for exploring the surrounding area.

A revival of Chatham’s cruise industry could also have a positive knock on effect on the local economy, bringing visitors to the area who spend money in Chatham, helping to sustain and create local jobs. Conservative estimates show that each passenger contributes £80 to the local economy every time they go on land.

Before the end of the year, will evaluate the impact of these cruises on the local area and use our findings to further develop our offering at Chatham and help put the port back on the UK cruise destination map.

We hope that Minerva and the Hebridean Princess will be the first of many cruise ships to visit us here at Chatham.

Martin Hughes
Marine Services Manager, Chatham


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