In a move intended to curb pollution and manage tourism, the Amsterdam City Council has voted to prohibit cruise ships from docking in the city center. This decision represents a significant shift in the city’s approach toward cruise tourism.
While cruise ships were welcomed with open arms before, the current city government has even called cruise ship passengers ‘locusts’ and wishes to ban cruise ships entirely from the city limits. The policy aligns with other initiatives in Amsterdam to discourage tourists from visiting the Dutch capital.
The Cruise Terminal Relocation Initiative
Amsterdam city council has voted yes on policies that aim to ban or severely limit cruise ships from docking in the city center. The Amsterdam Cruise Terminal is located next to the Amsterdam Central Station and within walking distance of the historic old city.
The decision follows a motion passed with a considerable majority in the city council. The resolution involves relocating the current cruise terminal to an area outside the city center. While this isn’t a new concept, the city government seems eager to implement the ban.
It would mean a considerable inconvenience for visiting cruise ship passengers, having to use busses or public transportation to reach the Amsterdam city center.
Whether that will phase the local politician behind the motion remains to be seen. Illana Rooderkerk says cruise passengers are little more than a ‘locust plague.’
Political party D66 chair Ilana Rooderkerk strongly advocates for the ban. She wrote a piece in a newspaper a few weeks ago, saying Amsterdam has no space for cruise ship passengers.
Rooderkerk: “It fits within our vision to look critically at the cruise ships that visit Amsterdam because the cruise passenger is a prime example of a tourist from whom the city derives little benefit. Because, like a plague of locusts, they move into the city center all at once, with the attendant nuisance.”
“As Mayor Halsema pointed out, tourists have little time for museums but visit the red light district. Aside from mooring fees and tourist taxes, the local economy hardly benefits from the flash visits. The benefit is to the cruise lines.”
Amsterdam is set to receive a total of 73 cruise ship visits through the end of 2023. Holland America Line’s ms Rotterdam is scheduled to make nine visits, making a total of 15 visits for Holland America Line. Norwegian Cruise Line also has 15 calls scheduled this year, six of these will be from the cruise line’s flagship, Norwegian Prima.
Besides the ocean-going ships, Amsterdam is a primary homeport for river cruise ships sailing from the Netherlands to Germany, Switzerland, France, and Eastern Europe. However, for now, these river cruise ships are not included in the proposed ban.
Impact of Cruise Ships
Besides the influx of tourists in the city, the environmental footprint of the large cruise ships docking in the town is a primary concern.
As cruise ships cannot connect to shore power in Amsterdam, they are a significant source of pollution and release sulfur, nitrogen, and particulate matter as their engines must remain running while in port.
The city’s popularity with cruise passengers has grown considerably over the years. According to Cruise Port Amsterdam (CPA), the terminal owner, passenger numbers were increasing by around 10% annually until 2018, with a predicted influx of nearly 300,000 passengers this year.
The number of tourists arriving by cruise ship pales compared to those visiting the city through the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on cheap, extremely polluting short-haul flights. However, the council believes banning cruise ships will send out a message that it is serious about limiting tourism.
Implementation Seems Unlikely in Near Future
Whether the new policies will indeed be implemented remains a question. Moving the terminal was first brought up in 2016, but little else has happened besides limiting the number of calls from 300 to 190.
Relocating the cruise terminal involves much more than just the Amsterdam City Council deciding on a motion. The entire process would need to be discussed with local and national stakeholders:
Alderman Hester van Buren told the Dutch newspaper NRC: “I’m not saying: the terminal will never be moved or scaled down. We think a healthy living environment is very important, but we cannot decide this unilaterally in Amsterdam.”
While the council has the power to enact this policy locally due to the Port Authority’s ownership by the municipality, the motion needs to be translated into law or regulation, which can be a lengthy process.
Of course, Amsterdam is not the only European city where cruise ships have drawn negative attention. Venice has already banned large cruise ships from entering, while Barcelona, Santorini, and Dubrovnik have or will limit cruise ship arrivals.