Last updated on January 24th, 2020 at 09:27 pm
Port Milwaukee plans to develop an additional docking site for passenger cruise ships as the city’s cruise business continues to grow.
The port’s third dock would be located in the city’s Harbor District, near the future site of Komatsu Mining Corp.’s new headquarters, said port director Adam Schlicht in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee.
The dock would be used specifically for Viking Cruises, which recently announced plans to make approximately 20 port calls and bring 8,000 tourists to Milwaukee annually, starting in 2022.
Port Milwaukee’s 470-acre waterfront includes two existing cruise ship facilities, Pier Wisconsin Cruise Dock at Discovery World and the Lake Express ferry’s South Shore Cruise Dock.
Those sites have gotten busier in recent years with ships like the Pearl Mist and The Hamburg making multiple turnaround stops in Milwaukee during the season.
The 2019 season wrapped in October with 10 passenger ship visits, bringing 3,214 visitors to the area. This year, cruise companies are expected to bring 4,000 visitors to Milwaukee with 14 vessel visits.
“So potentially by 2022, we’re talking 12,000 or more passengers on cruise ships both with new service on Viking and our legacy Great Lakes customers,” Schlicht said.
With an additional dock, Port Milwaukee would be one of the only Great Lakes ports offering three separate cruise docks, he said. And it would the city a competitive edge over other ports as it tries to attract more business, allowing Milwaukee to house up to three ships at once as opposed to one or two.
That’s why Schlicht doesn’t anticipate Viking’s entry into the Great Lakes market will pose a threat to smaller cruise companies that regularly dock in Milwaukee.
“We’re ready for the challenge,” he said, adding that the city has been negotiating for several years with both Viking and cruise lines already using the port.
As plans for the third dock develop, the city will “continue looking at any investment opportunities” from both the public and private sector, said Schlicht.
“We don’t exactly know yet how that will work out, but with Viking’s announcement we are fully empowered to figure out that solution.”