Port study: Old Copa could be $30M home for cruise ship

March 12, 2005

A cruise ship terminal at the state port would cost between $30 million and $35 million, and the best location would be the former site of the old Copa casino.

"You don't necessarily need a palace," said Don Allee, director of the state port in Gulfport, in presenting the study Friday to a group of public officials.

The study makes it clear getting a piece of the growing cruise ship industry is an option Gulfport should pursue.The study calls for a cooperative effort by Gulfport, Biloxi, Harrison County and the state to attract a share of the cruise ship industry.

Allee thinks Gulfport has its best chance to attract a ship from Carnival, Norwegian or Royal Caribbean."I'm confident we will get a contract," said Allee.Gulfport has been interested for a long time in hosting a cruise ship, and the port's master plan has it as a goal.

The engineering/architectural firm Gee and Jenson of West Palm Beach, Fla., a division of CH2M Hill, was hired to conduct the study --- a focused look at Gulfport.Allee said the key is the terminal itself, what is the right type and size and for small or large cruise ships.

Allee said while the port would benefit directly from having a cruise ship, beneficiaries also include hotels, casinos, restaurants and others.Earlier this month the Port Authority held a workshop to discuss the feasibility study before presenting it to the broader public.

The next step will be getting together with stakeholders to nail down a plan of action to convince a cruise line to commit a ship to Gulfport.Unlike the situation when the first study was done in 2001, Gulfport now has experience handling ships.

In 2003 it became for 18 weeks a temporary port for the Conquest, owned by Carnival Cruise, when that ship couldn't get to New Orleans because of low-hanging power lines. The experience with the Conquest was deemed a success.