How can ports and cruise line associations work together to serve the sector best? MedCruise president Stavros Hatzakos and secretary general Thanos Pallis outline the key challenges
As a cruise ports’ association, MedCruise welcomes the work of ports’ users to strengthen the association representing them. As with the restructuring of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the recent formation of the CLIA global ports committee is a step that we salute.
This move will facilitate interaction between cruise lines. It will also help our port members to better understand the views, requests and demands of their clients.
Fortunately, the port industry in the Mediterranean and its adjoining seas has its own structures of association already in place. MedCruise is the platform where ports hosting more than 80% of cruise passenger movements and cruise calls in the region can effectively discuss and reflect on what the committee representing the other side of the market might produce.
MedCruise wants to advance its collaboration with CLIA, which represents cruise lines around the world, and any relevant committee that cruise lines put in place.
Indeed, it already encourages collaboration of our members with cruise line executives in an effective way that includes their presence in our general assemblies and several other events. At the recent MedCruise general assembly, held in Castellon in May, 120 participants welcomed 10 executives, including Robert Ashdown, secretary general of CLIA Europe, and Adam Sharp (RCL), the chairman of the Ports & Infrastructure Committee for CLIA Europe, providing unique opportunities for interaction.
The positive outcome of the intervention made by the joint CLIA Europe/MedCruise statement in October 2013, and the move of the European Commission to simplify visa codes for third-country visitors to the Schengen passport-free area, is also indicative of good relations between the two organisations.
Thus, we have already started discussions with CLIA in order to detail the desired nature of the relationship between the two organisations.
It is necessary to sound a note of caution, however: the cruise sector can benefit from the emerging structures of the respective associations only once certain conditions are fulfilled.
First, a burden might arise due to the willingness of few to see the establishment of a rare pattern that is the blurring of membership (i.e. ports joining the association that represents cruise lines or vice versa). Associations like CLIA and MedCruise will be productive only if they respect the fundamentals of the market. In each sector there are always the interests of those demanding services and the interests of those supplying services. Each side of the market needs to advocate its interests through its respective associations, and should continue to do so.
Clearly, ports need their distinctive associations, insofar as they are effective, in the same way that cruise lines should have their own.
This is particularly true in the case of the Mediterranean and its adjoining seas. Collaboration is more effective when ports proceed in engagement collectively. MedCruise is a unique ports’ association that includes 71 members, representing more than 100 ports and more than 28 million cruise passenger movements in 20 countries, while several cruise-related companies and agents have joined its associate members’ programme.
For any port to back the association of its users – or for any cruise line to back the association representing the ports of the region – just boosts the accounts of the respective associations.
The other condition is to avoid duplication of associations’ formats, currently produced by establishing, beyond a global and a regional branch, additional national branches. These too-costly formats for their membership are unnecessary, while they confuse all those involved in cruise. There is, for instance, no way that a port manager will be involved in all levels of CLIA-related organisations (i.e. global, regional, national). It is improbable that she or he will attend all associated events. And there is most probably a danger of not being able to understand who is speaking with an authoritative voice.
At the same time this duplication results in lack of membership, and national-level associations seeking membership in too many unorthodox ways.
Once these conditions are understood and respected by all stakeholders, the observed tension produced by the lack of clear rules regarding interests and advocacy will ease, and the respective associations will go from good to better for the benefit of the entire cruise sector, rather than for one industry alone.
This article appeared in the Itinerary Planning Special Report. To read more articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.