Thursday, February 18th 2016 - 06:32 UTC

Punta Arenas expects to become homeport for an Antarctica cruise line

Punta Arenas in the extreme south of Chile is encouraged by the cruise industry prospects for its port and facilities: this season Norwegian Sun has returned with at least ten calls and for 2016/2017 a line will be cruising to Antarctica with Punta Arenas as a home port.

“Queen Mary 2 is iconic and any port it calls, gets on the spotlight. While she was here everything worked out nicely, which is a powerful indicator”.

“We want to make sure Punta Arenas becomes a homeport” with all the advantages that entails said Covacevich.

Punta Arenas is celebrating because Norwegian Line has returned and has scheduled ten calls this season, some 20.000 visitors

 “The great milestone for the 2016/17 cruise season, from October to March is that we will have a cruise line operating from Punta Arenas to Antarctica. Not only that but since they will have Punta Arenas as a homeport the passenger exchange will be taking place here”, said Ignacio Covacevich, general manager of the Austral Port Enterprise which runs Punta Arenas harbor.

Covacevich said that one of the advantages is that passengers will be flying in from Santiago and will spend overnight or more time in the city, before boarding, and maybe on their return take time for some tour or visit to the region's national parks or other attractions.

“We want to make sure Punta Arenas becomes a homeport” with all the advantages that entails.

As to the current season Covacevich said it was turning out far better than expected particularly since Norwegian Line has returned with at least ten calls and probably some 20.000 visitors.

“We have the infrastructure, the Prat jetty has been working successfully and it's not by chance that for the first time in ten years Queen Mary 2, one of the largest and most fabulous cruise vessels called at Punta Arenas”, indicated proudly Covacevich.

“Queen Mary 2 is iconic and any port it calls, gets on the spotlight. While she was here everything worked out nicely, which is a powerful indicator”.

Covacevich who is also president of the South Cone Ports Corporation, which includes ten Chilean ports involved in the cruise industry, was enthusiastic about strong lobbying in favor of a bill before the Chilean Senate to consider the cruise tours as domestic calls.

“This refers to vessels with over 400 passengers and would give travelers more leeway. Currently a passenger that boards in Valparaiso can't come ashore in Punta Arenas, he must do so in a foreign port. If the 'domestic' trips' bill is finally approved, it will allow for shorter tracks”, pointed out Covacevich.

In effect, currently in Chile most cruise tours take fifteen days because of this limitation while in the rest of the world, 90% of tracks average seven days: this would mean more vessels calling in Punta Arenas, and also as a port for the exchange of passengers.

Currently most Antarctica tours are monopolized by neighboring Ushuaia in Argentina, but Punta Arenas is a leading terminal for supply vessels, from different countries, to the different bases in Antarctica. It has the infrastructure, expertise and reliable support vessels, plus the fact that the Chilean Antarctic Institute is based at the extreme south city.

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1 The Voice (#) Feb 18th, 2016 - 10:12 am Report abuse
Very sensible, Punta Arenas is streets ahead of damp squalid Ushuaia. Nice town, lots of interesting things to see including the old map showing that the Falklands are British and not part of Argentina prominently displayed in the folk museum.
2 Marti Llazo (#) Feb 18th, 2016 - 02:03 pm Report abuse
Punta Arenas has a lot of traditional linkage to the Falklands. And still does. Islanders do a good bit of shopping for supplies at the Zona Franca. There are families in the area who trace their ancestors to Falkland islanders as well. In fact the sheep industry that grew up in southern Chile and southern Argentina started with Falklands sheep and Falklands sheep industry workers. There is a Kiwi-Chileno group based in Punta Arenas that teaches advanced sheep farming technology in Santa Cruz province in Argentina, in the Falklands, and in southern Chile.
3 redp0ll (#) Feb 18th, 2016 - 02:11 pm Report abuse
Some historical British snippets
1. On 26th April 1881 the Royal Navy sloop HMS Doterel blew up in Punta Arenas roads with the loss of 143 lives out of a crew od 155 when the forwar magazine exploded. At first sabotage was suspected but it was later established that the cause was a build up of gas in the coal bunkers, similar to that which destroyed the USS Maine in Havana leading to the Spanish American war.
The dead are commemorated by the Doterel Cross in the British section of the Punta Arenas cemetery.
2. Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal, Punta Arenas was a very important staging port. It not only had a British consulate but also a British Club which closed down as recently as 1981
3. I seem to remember a reference to The Sandy Point Times which claimed to to be the southernmost newspaper printed in English but my researches have drawn a blank on that. Perhaps the reference was to The Magellan TImes which ceased publication in 1934. Any one have any info on that?
4 Marti Llazo (#) Feb 18th, 2016 - 02:41 pm Report abuse
@3 The Magellan Times was published until 1936 and was distributed from Punta Arenas throughout southern Patagonia, including southward to Ushuaia and northward to the estancias and towns of Santa Cruz province in Argentina, as well as having distribution in the Falkland Islands.
5 redp0ll (#) Feb 18th, 2016 - 03:30 pm Report abuse
Ushuaia was founded by Lucas Bridges from the Falklands. When the Argentines got hold of it they promptly turned into a penal settlement.
6 Marti Llazo (#) Feb 18th, 2016 - 04:06 pm Report abuse

Actually the Bridges settled Harberton, which I visited some time ago. They didn't really settle Ushuaia, which is some distance away, although some histories of the Bridges have promoted that claim.

Waite Hockin Stirling is considered to have founded the anglican mission which is close to the site of modern day Ushuaia and although he was only there for a few months he is sometimes given credit for the city's founding. Bridges later (1870) took Stirling's position. But Ushuaia wasn't formally “founded” until 1884 when an Argentine military governor was appointed. At that time the little colony was established as a “maritime sub-prefecture”
7 Captainsilver (#) Feb 18th, 2016 - 04:18 pm Report abuse
No stone throwing tyre burning chanting thugs and Malvinista morons in Punta Arenas either. Great staging point for cruise passengers. The maritime museum is interesting you can view at replicas of Magellans and Shackletons crafts. I loved the cafes when I was cycling down there, lovely tea and cakes.
8 Marti Llazo (#) Feb 18th, 2016 - 04:47 pm Report abuse
Yes, the Maritime Museum is a good one to visit in Punta Arenas. Likewise the Salesiano museum. I did some consulting work for the new “Straits of Magellan” visitor centre located about 40 minutes south of Punta Arenas, at Fuerte Bulnes, and that centre is definitely worth the effort to visit.

During the Marxist Allende regime 1970 to 1973 in Chile, most of the teams headed for Antarctica from South America shifted away from Punta Arenas for their last-port supplies. Starting in about 1975 that started moving back to Punta Arenas and now it's quite common to see an ice-capable ship in that port.
9 SebaSvtz (#) Feb 19th, 2016 - 01:27 pm Report abuse
Punta Arenas sounds like a very nice place to visit.
I hope I can check it myself some day.

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