The Association for Maritime Activities (APEAM) has again issued a warning that Menorca, and Maó in particular, is losing competitiveness and being left off the cruise ship itineraries due to a lack of infrastructure.

Whilst Ibiza and Mallorca have adapted their ports for the new generation of cruise liners which have a displacement of over 47,000 tons, Maó has done nothing, in the opinion of José Ignacio Seguí Chinchilla, APEAM's Menorcan representative. As a result, the island is only suitable for the smaller ships which will be due to be scrapped in the near future. Although Maó's bookings for this year are an improvement on 2009's figure, the increase is not as marked as in the case of the island's competitors, Mallorca and Ibiza.

Using statistics to support his argument, Seguí points out that whilst the average number of passenger per ship visiting Menorca in recent years is 800, the figures for both Ibiza and Palma have been around 2,000. In his view it is not surprising that last year Maó saw a 26% drop in the number of passengers whilst Ibiza enjoyed a 33% increase, the latter port being used by the larger cruise liners.

Maó's share drops to 6%

Seguí points out that the difference between the islands was hardly noticeable in 1994 when Maó received 20% of the cruise passengers in the Balearic Islands, a percentage which dropped to 6% last year. According to him this loss is badly affecting the island's economy, as many different sectors benefit from the cruise ships' visits and their expenses and their passengers' spending, 53% of which goes to the shops, 25% to the transport sector (excursions), 8% to bars and restaurants, 5% to the Port Authorities, 1% to the ship's agent, around 4% on mooring charges and services and almost 3% to other sectors.

Seguí believes that Maó's decline started in 1996 although the voice of alarm had been raised some years earlier by APEAM, the Chamber of Commerce, the agents and CAEB. There had been talk at the turn of the century of the need for new infrastructure for cruise liners in the area of Cala Llonga or La Mola. However, the President of the Balearic Port Authorities stated that Maó's insurmountable physical limitations, such as the narrow entrance to the harbour, meant that even with adequate infrastructure, the large cruise ships would not want to enter the port as even the slightest wind makes the manoeuvre difficult.

This opinion is not shared by Seguí who, whilst reiterating the urgent need to provide infrastructure to allow larger vessels to berth in the port and offer an adequate service, states that the existing quay, even in its present condition, is suitable for ships of up to 225 metres in length, at least.