Marina Bay cruise centre plagued by gridlock due to swell of passengers

Travellers disembarking from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in January. Passengers at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore have complained about long waits at the immigration checkpoints, and for taxis.
Travellers disembarking from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in January. Passengers at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore have complained about long waits at the immigration checkpoints, and for taxis.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Swell of passengers when ships dock can cause a bottleneck of vehicles

Traffic on the roads around the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore (MBCCS) came to a standstill last Thursday when two large cruise ships docked at the passenger seaport on the same morning.

Between them, the luxury liner Queen Mary II of the Cunard Cruise Line and Voyager of the Seas, operated by Royal Caribbean International, can take more than 5,000 passengers. It created a bottleneck of vehicles arriving and going.

Though Thursday's incident was especially protracted, traffic congestion is one of a string of problems to plague MBCCS since it began operations in May 2012.

Passengers have complained about long waits at the immigration checkpoints, and for taxis.

Medical professional Sam Hare said he was stuck in a jam on the Marina Coastal Drive for 45 minutes on Thursday.

He had been on his way to send a friend off on a cruise that morning.

Of the three lanes, one was obstructed by "a long string of lorries, service vehicles and containers" for construction work nearby, said Mr Hare, who is in his 80s. "The car moved forward slowly before we got to the building. Then the carpark was full."

He noted that passengers arrive and depart at the same level of the terminal, unlike in an airport, which has different levels for arrivals and departures.

A spokesman for Sats-Creuers Cruise Services, which operates the cruise centre, acknowledged that Thursday's congestion was partly caused by construction work for the MRT North-South Line extension and the Marina Coastal Expressway.

"There are three road lanes leading to MBCCS but due to some illegal parking, there are only two usable lanes left," said the spokesman. One of the remaining two is taken up by taxis.

She said the firm is working with the Land Transport Authority to find a longer-term solution. It has also stationed staff along the roads to direct traffic.

Bottlenecks are predictable whenever two ships are berthed at once, said Dr Michael Chiam, a senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

He suggested the cruise centre arrange for buses to ferry tourists into the city, which would disperse the crowd more efficiently than if they all waited for taxis.

The new Marina South Pier MRT station to open 600m away this year would help resolve the issue of the lack of public transport, said industry players.

Dynasty Travel's director of marketing communications, Ms Alicia Seah, said: "As much as we position ourselves as an international cruise hub, visitors' experience may be dented if they can't get out from the cruise centre to the city."

mellinjm@sph.com.sg

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