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Barcelona pushes cruise ships out of its city center

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As overtourism continues to throttle European cities, one destination has taken a step against cruise ships, restricting access to the port.

Barcelona has closed its northern port terminal to cruise traffic, after an agreement with the local authorities to move ships further out of town.

Cruise ships must now dock at the Moll d’Adossat pier, which is the furthest from the city center. Before that, ships also used the World Trade Center pier, which is plum in the city center, a block from La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous promenade.

Instead of disembarking and being able to walk up La Rambla in a matter of minutes, passengers will now face a hike of at least 30 minutes to leave the port area.

The move affects around 340 cruise dockings a year, according to data released by the port authorities.

The area will now be reclaimed by the city, with an area of nearly 150,000 square feet, including over 2,000 feet of quay area, now designated to be “new public spaces.” The wharf’s new life will start next fall, and will be open to everyone, according to a statement by Lluís Salvadó, Port of Barcelona president.

The move follows a 2018 agreement between the port authorities and Barcelona city council, to “move cruise activity away from urban areas… making them more sustainable,” the port authorities said in a statement.

The rule officially takes effect on October 22, but the last ship to dock there has already been and gone. Mystic Cruises’ World Navigator stopped by on October 2.

Bidding farewell to the pier with the ship, Salvadó said that the 2018 agreement promised to “eliminate the negative externalities that [cruises] can produce for residents.”

The port previously closed another cruise terminal, the Maremagnum, in agreement with the council. The pier, which is directly linked to the Ciutat Vella, Barcelona’s Old Town, is now home to restaurants, bars, a sailing club and marina, Barcelona Aquarium, and the Maremagnum mall.

It also reduced the number of operative terminals from eight to seven, barred cruise lines from docking at other terminals, and introduced a one ship per terminal rule, limiting numbers to seven ships docked in the city at one time at one time.

By 2026, all cruise operations will operate from the Adossat wharf. For that to happen, the Barcelona South terminal, also on the World Trade Center pier, will be closed. The port then plans to electrify the Adossat wharf, meaning that moored ships can be powered from the pier itself, rather than pumping out noxious emissions.

Those docking at the old wharf could be walking up La Rambla in a matter of minutes.

Barcelona is Europe’s biggest cruise port. Over 2.3 million passengers passed through in 2022 – a nearly 350% increase on 2021 figures, according to port data. Add in ferry passengers, and the number becomes almost four million. In contrast, the city’s population is just over 1.6 million, according to 2023 data by the local authorities.

Meanwhile the city is struggling with the weight of overtourism. There were over nine million overnight visitors in 2022, according to the council.

“This isn’t something we can stop, but Barcelona is looking for a different kind of tourism – more quality but at the same time sustainable,” Albert Dalmau Miranda, former manager for the economy, resources and economic promotion at Barcelona council, told CNN in January 2020.

New mayor Jaume Collboni is not letting up the pressure on the tourism industry, or cruises specifically, with increased taxes announced in his first proposed budget.

Cruises companies will have to pay 6.25 euros ($6.60) per passenger in taxes when they dock for fewer than 12 hours, he announced on October 10.

“Tourism is very important, it generates economic and social value, but also collateral damage, inconvenience to citizens. We are not going against tourism – it is a contribution so that they contribute to financing public services,” he said, as reported by Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Collboni also plans to up the tourist tax for those staying in Airbnbs and apartments to seven euros ($7.40) per person per night.

His proposed budget is due to be voted on next week.


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