Legend of the Seas in ShanghaiThe Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) told Cruise Industry News it expects six ships to be homported in 2013, following a 2012 season with three homported ships and 83 cruises plus 41 calls for a total of some 300,000 passengers.

The ships sailing from Shanghai performed quite well during the first half of the year, according to a SIPG spokesperson: The 1,928-passengers Costa Victoria averaged 1,905 passengers for a load factor of 98 percent; the 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas averaged 3,494 passengers for a load factor of 112 percent; and the 1,800-passenger Legend of the Seas averaged 1,680 passengers and a load factor of 93 percent.

As the ships operate seasonally from Shanghai, the SIPG confirmed reports that it is “negotiating with well-known international cruise operators to set up a joint venture cruise company for year-round cruises, calling at Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.”

In order to drive further industry growth in Shanghai, SIPG said in a statement it is committed to become a comprehensive service provider to the cruise industry.

In 2010 and 2011, SIPG offered four charter cruises and designed them as local products with itineraries to Xiamen and Taiwan and Zhoushan and Okinawa, circumventing cabotage rules and cross-strait restrictions.

The goal is to offer a local product by 2013 at more favorable prices and itineraries. SIPG may hold a 50 percent in the new venture. Another objective is said to be to reduce the port’s dependence of overseas cruise companies to ensure the utilization of the terminal and also diversify itineraries to other coastal towns and to Taiwan.

As for what is driving the market growth in China, the spokesperson referred to economic expansion of the Shanghai region and its population, combined with six years of cruise line marketing and the arrival of megaships.

While the SIPG said it is confident of further growth, it would not commit to a timeline. It noted that there are several factors serving as brakes, including the lack of diversity of itineraries. Korea and Japan are the main foreign destinations. Cruise lines have to apply to central government for approval to sail to Taiwan and coastal itineraries are not allowed by foreign flag ships.

See the full Asian market report in Cruise Industry News' special Asia issue for the Cruise Shipping Asia-Pacific conference in Singapore Sept. 17 to 18.