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Gibraltar Ports Authority: Boosting Gibraltar’s Tourism Industry

Located at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and Atlantic shipping lands, the historic island of Gibraltar receives around 240 million gross tonnes of vessel calls per year. Its strategic location makes it a vital link for stakeholders within the shipping industry to help deliver goods and services year-round. For almost 20 years, the Gibraltar Ports Authority (GPA) has continued to build on its existing success and hopes to extend the level of partnership and transparency to all sectors of the industry at the Port. In the last year, GPA has put a major focus on its tourism and cruise facilities with the aim of establishing Gibraltar as one of the most important cruise destinations in the Western Mediterranean.  

Since 2005, GPA has been building on Gibraltar’s strategic location at the heart of international shipping lines by implementing firm and efficient services across the maritime and logistics sector. This includes the navigation, bunkering and licensing of port operations. By providing these services, GPA has established a vision for the future which aims to develop more partnerships for the port with a transparent and efficient approach to every aspect of the port industry sector.  

The main role of GPA is to maintain the strict and thoroughly monitored control of all vessels travelling throughout the British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) by providing essential port, security, and navigational services. Alongside these vital services, GPA provides licenses and ship-to-shore operations for several vessels within the BGTW. However, as one of the largest bunkering ports in the Mediterranean, one of the main activities for GPA is the bunkering of vessels within the Port of Gibraltar. For GPA, they provide low-cost bunkering services, thanks to the tax-free status of the island within the European Union. Therefore, Gibraltar’s strategic location and competitive port dues mean that bunkering remains a profitable operation for both Gibraltar and GPA.  

Therefore, bunkering at the Port of Gibraltar sees companies from across the world utilising GPA’s services to supply all grades of marine fuel from 30 centistokes (cSt) to 380 cSt. Thanks to the 1-metre tidal variation year-round, bunkering vessels can easily be met with efficient ship-to-shore services no matter the season, often delivering products such as fuel via barge whilst the vessel is at anchor in the Gibraltar Bay. However, these services can also be delivered alongside. By continuing to provide valuable and efficient bunkering services, as well as content quality checks of cargo throughout, GPA has established Gibraltar as a vital stopping location for shipping lines on an international scale.  

However, in recent years the tourism side of GPA’s operations has seen a big uptick, especially in the years following the pandemic. Gibraltar has long been a popular destination for tourists from across the world with millions descending on ‘the rock’ every year. Therefore, tourism remains a vital part of Gibraltar’s economy, and so it has continued to play a vital role in GPA’s operations for many years. GPA has been working closely with the Gibraltar Tourism Board to make it easier for visitors to enjoy the island and provide clear info to encourage the continuous development and promotion of the tourism industry. Therefore, the Port of Gibraltar is now a busy and thriving commercial port with a multitude of services which are developing the tourism industry.  

A key aspect of GPA’s role in developing the island’s tourism industry is through its delivery of services to cruise vessels. These services include delivering bunkering, crew change provisions, and the supply of spare parts and repairs to cruise vessels docking within its port. These services are backed by GPA’s commitment to efficient and reliable port operations, and so, many cruise liners are now choosing Gibraltar as a key and essential stopping point along their cruise itineraries. Therefore, to meet the needs of the growing cruise line tourism sector, GPA is looking to develop its facilities to meet the tourism demand and continue to rank Gibraltar as a key stopping point for cruise liners year-round.  

Plans to develop the port are a key concern for the Minister for Tourism, Hon Christian Santon MP. Santon highlighted the role of the tourism sector in a recent press release regarding the  news of Gibraltar welcoming a new cruise vessel (the Arvia) into the port in October 2023; “I’m delighted to see the hard work of my predecessor Vijay Daryanani come to fruition as we welcome a vessel of this size to our port, giving us an opportunity to showcase the tourist attractions, the historically rich sites and the culturally diverse community Gibraltar has to offer”. Santon’s comments highlight the increasing number of inaugural calls by large vessels see at the Port of Gibraltar over the last year.  

With an increase in cruise line business for GPA, Santon continues the mission of Vijay Daryananai who began developing a new state-of-the-art facility to replace the current Cruise liner terminal. The new terminal will provide a main area for passengers, whilst the first floor will be dedicated to events and conferences. In addition, the terminal would see the possibility for various shopping units across the proposed 3817 square meters of the development. Daryananai highlighted back in September that “Gibraltar has the potential to become the most important cruise destination in the Western Mediterranean”, and it is this sentiment that the new Minister Santon continues to promote.  

In November last year, Santon highlighted, following further inaugural visits from cruise liners (such as the Norweigan Star, the Emerald Azzurra and the Norweigan Viva), the government is “committed to enhancing the experience of cruise passengers arriving at our Port with the plans for the creation of the new cruise terminal”. The government, therefore, is continuing to work with GPA to bring a cohesive and purposeful strategy to develop the port’s offerings and continue to bring economic prosperity to the region by investing in the cruise liner and tourism sector.  

Every time we cover GPA, we are reminded of the firm role the authority plays in developing both Gibraltar’s economy and the maritime sector towards international recognition. With a continued service which focuses on regulation, support and development, GPA has developed the Port of Gibraltar into an essential and lucrative base for many vessels to stop at when travelling across international shipping lines. Then, with recent developments towards the cruise line terminal development, both GPA and the government are highlighting the vast economic potential of the tourism industry which will continue to add significant income to Gibraltar’s economy for many years to come.