Local Residents Frustrated With Growing Cruise Port

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Portland, a quaint port town in the United Kingdom, along with its neighbor Weymouth, is facing substantial traffic challenges as the number of cruise ship arrivals reaches unprecedented levels.

Portland’s status as a cruise ship destination has yielded economic prosperity and logistical challenges for residents of Portland and Weymouth. The success of the 2023 cruising season, described as “record-breaking” for Portland Port, has underscored the tension between the benefits of tourism and the impacts of increased traffic caused by cruise ships.

The surge in shuttle buses going through Weymouth has led the town’s residents to contemplate legal measures to address the flood of buses navigating their streets.

Economic Success Causes Community Strain

The undeniable success of Portland as a cruise stop has brought significant revenue to the area, supporting local businesses and tourism. However, this uptick in economic activity has been accompanied by a surge in the frequency of shuttle buses transporting cruise guests through residential streets. 

Key routes through Portland and neighboring Weymouth have become focal points of dissent due to noise, pollution, and safety concerns. The issues are not just down to the number of buses driving through the area. Thousands of cruise ship passengers descend on the villages during busy cruise days. 

The heart of the residents’ complaints lies in the disruption caused by what they term an unofficial bus stop in Weymouth, with up to 188 buses passing through in just seven hours on busy cruise days. This includes guests spending the day in Weymouth and cruise passengers heading to UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Jurassic Coast, Stonehenge, and Bath.

On top of that, guests are being dropped off at a mini roundabout in Weymouth, creating hazards not only for cruise passengers but also for other road users.

Cruise Ships Docked at Portland
Cruise Ships Docked at Portland (Photo Courtesy: Portland Port)

In a letter addressed to Portland Port and Dorset City Council, and published in part by the Dorset Echo, residents express their frustration with the current circumstances:

“We understand that other local businesses are required to meet certain licensing, capacity, and health and safety assessments before allowing thousands of people to congregate in one place. The port does not appear to be being held to those same standards.” 

Residents further argue that the success of the port should not come at the expense of their quality of life. It has now led to the residents threatening to pursue legal and civil action against the port.

Portland Port Aims to Increase Cruise Traffic in 2024

Acknowledging the concerns raised, Portland Port has indicated its ongoing discussions with Dorset Council to find a viable solution. The port has taken steps to mitigate traffic issues, including hiring a professional traffic management company and implementing measures to stagger bus arrivals.

However, it remains to be seen if these measures will address the concerns of residents, as the success witnessed in 2023 is anticipated to be exceeded in 2024.

Portland Cruise Port
Photo Credit: Maciej Olszewski / Shutterstock

The port celebrated a landmark year in 2023, marking its busiest cruise season to date with 56 cruise ship arrivals over eight months, bringing 130,000 passengers to the small island, and generating £10 million in revenue for the port and local businesses. 

The surge in popularity and the ability to accommodate a record number of visitors were made possible by Portland Port’s strategic investments in infrastructure. Notably, the port inaugurated a £26 million deep-water berth, a move that significantly expands its capacity to host larger vessels, and thus host even more cruise passengers, making the traffic problems even worse.

Portland Port is gearing up for an even busier 2024 season, with cruise calls scheduled for 11 out of 12 months. The lineup includes calls from ships such as AIDAsol, Regal Princess, Ms Rotterdam, and Celebrity Apex.

Portland’s situation emphasizes the delicate balance between capitalizing on cruise industry-generated revenue and preserving community quality of life. With Portland Port set to outdo its 2023 success, the residents’ letter signals a chance to take an approach that balances economic growth with local interests.

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