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Kingston Considers a Deepwater Port for Cruise Ships

Cruise ships, deepwater port, Queen Street, Kingston, OntarioKingston’s geographic prowess is derived from its close proximity to Toronto and Montreal, but from a different standpoint, the Limestone City owes a great deal to its location beside the intersection of Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence and Cataraqui rivers. In fact, historically speaking, the strategic significance of this nautical junction is the reason why the city, Fort Henry and the former naval dockyard were established here in the first place. Fast forward two centuries later, where these adjacent bodies of water continue to contribute to the city’s vibrancy.

Kingston’s shores are renowned throughout the world as a popular fresh water diving destination, with over 10 sunken wrecks for curious divers to explore.  Our lively waterfront also plays host to dozens of annual international sailing competitions, most notably those of the 1976 Olympic games.  Furthermore, Kingston’s forgotten industries and the associated shipping traffic have long since been replaced by the frequent departures and arrivals of scenic cruises during warmer months.  Suffice it to say, from economic and recreational standpoints, we owe a great deal to our bustling waterfront.

Last week, City Council unanimously passed a motion that could eventually result in Kingston taking even greater advantage of its access to adjacent waterways.  Specifically, the vote will kick start a feasibility study to identify a location for cruise ships (such as the 420 passenger MS Hamburg pictured above) to dock at and allow passengers to disembark.  With the Crawford Wharf and privately-owned pier at 1 Queen Street being eyed as possible locations for dredging to create a deepwater port, this week’s poll asks:

Should Kingston build a deepwater port to attract cruise ships?

  • Yes, let's get this done. (73%, 916 Votes)
  • Maybe. It's depends on cost/location. (21%, 257 Votes)
  • No, this is a dumb idea. (6%, 80 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,253

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Having lived in cities such as Quebec City and Victoria, both of which being popular ports of call for cruise ships of varying sizes, I think the move by City Council is a smart one.  Either of the locations being considered at this early stage would allow passengers to disembark right in the heart of downtown Kingston, where everything from shopping to restaurants and tourist attractions would be at their fingertips.  Those added tourist dollars are a huge attraction, but let’s keep in mind that the frequency of ships coming and going would be far from daily, and just because we built it does not guarantee they’ll stop here.

For instance, two ships belonging to the Great Lakes Cruise Company are currently able to dock at the Crawford Wharf, however neither includes Kingston as a stopover.  Ships such as the Grand Caribe, Grand Mariner, M/V Victory, and Pearl Mist will pass Kingston for a combined total of 20 times next year, and without a deepwater dock, all we can do is wave bye-bye as they pass us en route to Toronto and Montreal.

Do you think Kingston would make an ideal port of call for cruise ships transiting Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence?  How hard should the city push to make this happen, and ultimately, how much should tax payers be on the hook for footing the bill to increase tourism?

Photo credit to Christopher Howitt.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

18 thoughts on “Kingston Considers a Deepwater Port for Cruise Ships

  • November 13, 2017 at 2:41 pm
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    Great idea, let’s build a deep-water dock to allow cruise ships to come in and bring loads of tourists who can view all of the condos that are replacing Kingston’s real heritage!

    • November 13, 2017 at 3:53 pm
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      Kyle Hewitt but there’s got to be something worth seeing to maintain a healthy tourist footfall… the loss of the Marine Museum, the removal of the Alexander Henry, the recent development proposal that would bisect the Navy Memorial Park, etc etc… there needs to be a balance between heritage and development. I’m not saying freeze everything as it was, but equally I’m not saying develop, develop, develop!

    • November 14, 2017 at 12:32 am
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      spent first 23 years of life there…went back last month for first time in 22 years…the waterfront is beautiful but hang onto that heritage because 4 blocks north of the lake…not much to see! ask Cooke’s if they would change their old floors for new ones? Ask the artisans in that alley by Chez Piggy if they would prefer to be in galleries? So much potential for heritage tourism…

  • November 15, 2017 at 4:29 am
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    Show me the research that has been done to not only justify the expense but clearly demonstrates the real dollars and cents that will come into the community. Who is really going to benefit. If there’s money to be made why aren’t those folks who stand to benefit the most putting up the investment? I would suspect that cruise ship passengers who have spent considerable funds for accommodation & meals are not going to be spending large funds in the communities where they tie up. Again, convince me with hard facts and not the build it and they will come propaganda.

    • January 3, 2018 at 2:15 pm
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      Thats the reason that the towns that are visited in Alaska has 12 jewelry stores during cruise time, and none in the winter. The towns make out like bandits. Millions are spent every day when the cruise ships arrive. Why wouldn’t it do the same here

  • November 15, 2017 at 2:16 pm
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    This is a ridiculous notion. Not only would it be limited, like all our water-related activities, to a very short season, but there’s no argument to be made that tourists would prefer to visit from the water rather than from land.

  • November 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm
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    As one whose family has been involved with the Kingston waterfront since the mid 1840s I must comment that the only area with deep enough water (ie Seaway standard of 27 ft.) close to downtown Kingston is the former Marine Museum site. A deep water channel in from Lake Ontario ends at that site; that’s the reason for the dry dock being built there in 1891.

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