TOKYO -- The Japanese government wants city governments and cruise ship operators to join hands in building large harbors exclusively for cruise ships, eyeing an economic boost through increased tourism.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is seeking joint development plans from municipalities and cruise ship operators.
The idea is for the national and municipal governments to handle construction of the docks and cruise ship operators to build passenger terminals. Most of Japan's existing ports are for cargo ships; only a few were built solely for cruise ships.
Cruise ship-specific harbors need to be capable of handling customs and immigration controls. The government estimates the cost at up to 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) each, and it plans to create an investment scheme with preferential terms for cruise ship operators.
A team representing Nippon Yusen and the Yokohama city government has submitted a plan to refurbish the Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal, which was developed in 2002. Nippon Yusen's Asuka II cruise ship is based in the Port of Yokohama. The company, which is considering adding a new ship around 2020, believes that developing a new port will help ensure stable business in the future.
The Yokohama city government is also studying the possibility of building cruise ship harbors at several existing wharves, including one near the Red Brick Warehouse area, a major local tourist spot.
In Kumamoto and Nagasaki Prefecture, on the southern main island of Kyushu, U.S. companies Royal Caribbean International and Carnival have separately submitted development plans with local municipal partners for the ports of Yatsushiro and Sasebo. Malaysia's Genting is proposing a harbor plan in Shizuoka Prefecture, and in Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture, several foreign cruise ship operators have submitted plans as well.
According to the transport ministry, 1.99 million foreign tourists arrived in Japan via cruise ships in 2016, up 80% from a year earlier. An increasing number of large passenger ships from abroad are looking to call at ports cross the country. Passengers on cruise ships tend to be affluent and spend an average of 30,000 yen to 40,000 yen at each port. The Japanese government aims to increase port arrivals to 5 million people by 2020.