Video footage and eyewitness reports from Grand Turk have confirmed some damage to the popular cruise port dock, with large sections of the dock now missing after the passage of Hurricane Fiona.
While no cruise line has yet commented on the damage and the full extent of necessary repairs is yet to be assessed in the aftermath of the storm, it is possible that future cruise ship visits may be canceled until appropriate repairs can be completed.
Popular Dock Damaged in Grand Turk
Aerial video of Grand Turk obtained with the assistance of a United States Coast Guard airlift clearly shows significant damage to the cruise ship dock, with extensions completely missing from the concrete pier. Those extensions permit larger ships to safely berth at the dock.
An additional video shows the missing sections washed up on an adjacent beach at some distance from the dock. The retaining walls at the base of the pier where it reaches the beach have also been damaged.
While it appears that the majority of the pier’s structure is intact, an engineering assessment and safety inspection will likely be necessary to ensure the structure’s integrity before it can be used.
Furthermore, the length of the pier impacts what size of cruise ships can safely tie up. If replacing the extensions is a challenging process, larger cruise ships such as Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras may be unable to visit the port as planned.
Mardi Gras, which measures 1,130 feet (344 meters) long, is the longest vessel scheduled to visit Grand Turk in the next few weeks, with its next visit planned for Thursday, September 29.
Several other Carnival Cruise Line ships are also scheduled for Grand Turk in the coming weeks, including Carnival Legend (963 feet / 294 meters), Carnival Freedom (952 feet / 290 meters), and Carnival Sunrise (893 feet / 272 meters).
Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Infinity (965 feet / 294 meters) also regularly visits Grand Turk, but will not be at the port until Wednesday, October 5. Celebrity Infinity was scheduled to be docked at Grand Turk today, but the ship’s itinerary was changed due to Hurricane Fiona.
Hurricane Fiona Impact on Grand Turk
Hurricane Fiona crossed Grand Turk on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour). Large-scale power outages and cell service disruptions occurred on the island, but no injuries or deaths due to the hurricane have been reported.
Local hurricane warnings were discontinued at 11:50 p.m. on Tuesday, and restoration efforts began immediately to restore power and assess damage. Other than the pier damage, the island appears to have suffered only minor damage elsewhere.
Possible Economic Impact
If the cruise ship pier cannot be repaired in short order or if multiple larger ships are unable to dock for several weeks, this could have significant economic impact on the island.
Grand Turk faced significant hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted all tourism to the island, and only reopened to cruise travel in mid-December 2021.
In the first quarter of 2022, Grand Turk welcomed record numbers of cruise passengers, with more than 173,000 guests arriving via 79 cruise ship visits in just three months. The winter sailing season in the early months of the year is traditionally the busiest for many Caribbean destinations.
If the cruise dock is now inaccessible, multiple missed visits could have a grave economic impact on the island’s continued recovery from pandemic losses.
Furthermore, increased Caribbean hurricane activity could cause further damage and create repair delays, as well as canceling more cruise ship visits as itineraries are rerouted.
While Hurricane Fiona has moved well past the Turks & Caicos – the storm will impact Bermuda within 48 hours – more storm systems are currently developing in the Atlantic and may also threaten Grand Turk and other popular ports of call as they move east.