The Nanaimo Port Cruise Ship facility received international recognition for design and function.
The Port of Nanaimo had been welcoming cruise ships to its harbour since 2002. However, the lack of a permanent facility to discharge passengers meant they had to be shuttled to shore by boat. The shallow turning basin and lack of dock space also limited the area to periodic stops by smaller ships. Despite the industry’s growth, coupled with Nanaimo’s strategic alignment as a community diversifying through tourism, the community was losing the opportunity to attract a growing, high value tourism industry. Looking to the future (and to the cruise industry’s preference for permanent facilities and larger vessels), the Port Authority began to look at options for a permanent dock. The current assembly wharf in the Port of Nanaimo had been used for decades by the forestry industry, however use of the current berths would have required significant dredging with significant negative environmental impacts.
To accommodate the largest operating cruise ships, a new floating concrete pier was built, consisting of 2 concrete pontoons that create a structure which is 350 feet long, 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep, moored to a number of pilings. A new pedestrian bridge from the pier to a new bulkhead was constructed to move passengers from the float to land. A 7,300-square foot Welcome Centre, offering spectacular floor to ceiling views of the Harbour, was also built to accommodate customs clearance, shore excursion processing and waiting.
The Nanaimo Port Cruise Facility Project, completed in 2014, allows for the expansion of tourism in the mid-Island region. The facility is now well-positioned for the industry’s future growth. The facility has welcomed some of the largest cruise ships travelling the inside passage to Alaska, including the Norwegian Pearl. This has solidified the mid-Island as a sophisticated cruise destination with international cruise lines. It has also introduced the mid-Island to a new market of international cruise travellers, allowing for the development of new shore excursion products reaching beyond Nanaimo to the region at large. The facility has also been used by the Canadian Navy, research vessels and other large ships. The Welcome Centre has also been used in the off-seasons for special events and conferences. Future additional uses of the facility could include a foot passenger ferry terminal, as well as a wider range of special events.