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Dripping away: Brooklyn cruise ships on the decline too

Smooth sailing may not be in store for Red Hook’s cruise terminal, this newspaper has learned.

Cruise ship traffic in Red Hook will decline 27 percent in 2009 compared to last year,  according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

“Because of current financial conditions – which are international in scope – and the cruise operators redeploying ships to European destinations, ship calls at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal for 2009 will be less than 2008,” said Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the EDC.  

Patterson said the terminal, located at Pier 12, saw record business last year: In 2008, there were 59 ship calls. In contrast, 43 ships are expected this year. 

The city, which heralded the cruise terminal’s arrival in 2006 as an asset to the region, and a boon to the local economy, remains committed its success. In late 2010, Patterson said, Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth will be finished and will make its maiden voyage into New York City in early 2011. “We are working with Cunard and hope to make up the lost ship calls,” she said.

Borough President Marty Markowitz, a cruise aficionado and Red Hook terminal booster, said he’s not prepared to issue a mayday call.

“I’m confident there are blue skies and sun-splashed decks on the horizon–and that in the years to come, we’ll see an increase in ships at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook,” Markowitz said.

“In terms of the economy, we know that a rising tide lifts all cruise ships – and it’s no secret that all industries are experiencing a serious ebb right now. But for those travelers who have the means, cruises can actually present an affordable vacation alternative to flying and staying at a hotel,” the borough president added.

In its first year of operation, 41 ships with about 186,000 passengers called at Brooklyn, according to the EDC.  The terminal was named “Best Turnaround Port” by Princess Cruise Lines, one of the companies that regularly uses it, and hailed as

“Best New U.S. Homeport” in the January/February 2007 Porthole Cruise Magazine.

The city, in conjunction with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns Pier 12, is planning to curb diesel pollution at the 190,000 square foot cruise terminal by implementing a plan that would call on the massive ships to cut their on-board power supply and connect to the mainland power grid instead. The plan could be operational by the third quarter of 2010, the EDC has said. Prior to being reimagined as a passenger terminal, Pier 12 handled cargo.

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