Tokyo Port Sees Record Number of Cruise Ship Calls in 2023; Temporary Facility to Be Built as Demand Outstrips Space

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Queen Elizabeth makes its first call at Tokyo Port on March 28 at the Tokyo International Cruise Terminal in Koto Ward, Tokyo.

Tokyo Port saw a record 49 cruise ship calls in 2023 since such records began in 2012.

Behind the increase is the post-pandemic recovery of tourism demand and the opening of the Tokyo International Cruise Terminal. The Tokyo metropolitan government will keep working to attract more cruise ships to the port.

The cruise ship Queen Elizabeth made its first call at Tokyo Port on the morning of March 28. The 90,900-ton, 294-meter-long passenger ship has a capacity of 2,081 passengers. It made a stopover on its tour from Australia to Japan via Guam and other destinations. The passengers were seen disembarking the ship, hopping on taxis and buses waiting at the terminal and setting out one after another to go sightseeing in Tokyo.

“Tokyo is filled with more attractions than can be fully appreciated in a single visit. We hope you visit Tokyo over and over,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said at the welcome ceremony. Captain Stephen Howarth said he was happy to come to the city and hoped the ship would call again.

Cruise ships had called mainly at the Harumi Passenger Ship Terminal, which was located farther inland in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward until its closing in February 2022. However, the Harumi terminal could only accept ships that can pass under the 52-meter-high Rainbow Bridge. Tokyo opened in September 2020 the Tokyo International Cruise Terminal in Koto Ward on the seaward side of the Rainbow Bridge to accommodate the ever-increasing size of cruise ships. The Queen Elizabeth was one of the large ships that could have not called at the Harumi terminal.

Along with the opening of the international terminal, Tokyo government officials stepped up promotional activities overseas, while cooperating with Shizuoka and Wakayama prefectures along the Pacific coast, where cruise ships are expected to call in during their voyage around Japan.

The pandemic limited the number of ship arrivals to 19 by the end of 2022, but the number increased dramatically when the port resumed accepting foreign cruise ships last March.

Even so, the new terminal has a 430-meter-long wharf, which can only accommodate one large ship. Cruise ship calls tend to be concentrated in the stable weather of spring and autumn, and the terminal was forced to turn down 51 requests last year alone, with only half of the requests accepted.

Tokyo plans to expand the terminal so that two vessels can berth at the same time, but no decision has been made on the timing of the project as studies on demand and cost-effectiveness have yet to be conducted. Therefore, it intends to use the site of the Harumi terminal, the demolition of which was just completed in February, to build a temporary facility to accept passenger vessels.

Tokyo Port is scheduled to accept 35 port calls by May, while many other calls are under negotiation. The record number of calls is expected to be broken again.

The economic impact of a 3,000-passenger cruise ship is estimated to reach ¥200 million, and a Tokyo government official said, “We will actively lure more foreign cruise ships to promote tourism in Tokyo.”