Thursday, September 30th 2004 - 21:00 UTC

Punta Arenas optimism with coming cruise season.

A total of 58,000 visitors and 23,000 crewmembers will be calling in Magallanes Region during the coming 2004/05 cruise season according to the Austral Port Administration, EPA, in Punta Arenas.

The number of foreign cruise vessels calling in Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales will reach 63, a slight increase over the 61 of the previous season and the 57 during 2002/03.

"We estimate 48,000 visitors in Punta Arenas and 10,000 in Puerto Natales for this coming season", said EPA General Manager Eduardo Manzanares.

Besides the foreign vessels, Punta Arenas will also be receiving the Chilean cruise "Antarctic Dream", the former Chilean Navy "Piloto Pardo", that is expected to begin operations in mid October.

"These numbers once again indicate the strategic position of Magallanes and our spectacular scenery which makes the region an unavoidable reference for any Patagonia or Antarctic cruise", emphasized Mr. Manzanares.

EPA's General Manager also confirmed that Punta Arenas has been certified in security matters by the Maritime International Organization and in the coming days metal detectors and X ray equipment will be installed in the Arturo Prat jetty passenger terminal, "which has under gone considerable reforms to improve visitors comfort".

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