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Kingston hoping to lure cruise ships with deepwater dock

A new deepwater dock in Kingston, Ont., could draw dozens of mid-sized cruise ships to the Limestone City over the next decade — boosting the local economy in the process, according to a staff report.

$4.5M project could bring dozens of mid-sized ships over next decade

Kingston, Ont., is considering building a deepwater dock to attract cruise ships that would otherwise bypass the eastern Ontario city. (Aadel Haleem/CBC )

Kingston, Ont., is already trying to lure more residents by boasting about its worry-free roads — and now the city on Lake Ontario wants people to visit by water, too.

According to a staff report presented to city council this week, a new deepwater dock could bring dozens of mid-sized cruise ships to the Limestone City over the next decade, boosting the local economy in the process.

While smaller ships can currently dock at the city's Crawford Wharf, mid-sized ships — those carrying between 400 and 500 passengers — require help from smaller boats to get passengers to shore, said Julie Salter-Keane, Kingston's community projects manager.

"The cruise ships don't really like that situation. They may run into problems where the water's too rough on Lake Ontario," Salter-Keane said.

"They'd really prefer to come in and dock at a deepwater dock."

2 sites being considered

The staff report suggests the ideal spot would be at 1 Queen St., a short walk to City Hall and cheaper to convert into a deepwater dock than other options.

The minimum city investment would be $4.5 million, the report says, which would include rehabilitating and beautifying the area and removing up to 1,800 cubic metres of material "likely contaminated from historical industrial use."

The other site being considered is at 55 Ontario St., a few blocks away.

"They're both right in the downtown area," said Salter-Keane. "So the passengers would be able to get off and walk right down into our heritage area."

Salter-Keane told CBC Radio's All In A Day there's been a surging interest in Great Lakes cruises in recent years, but many of those ships bypass Kingston because the infrastructure isn't there.

When they do stop, passengers typically stay overnight, spending money at local businesses and restaurants and touring sites like Fort Henry and the former Kingston Penitentiary, she said.

Could more cruise ships be on the horizon for Kingston? We hear why the city's exploring the idea of a deep water dock to welcome them. 8:46

Salter-Keane said with a deepwater dock, the number of cruise ships arriving at the city could grow to around 70 by 2028 — approximately twice as many as currently stop in Kingston now.

One potential obstacle flagged in the report is the fact the property owner of 1 Queen St. is planning a hotel for the site, and future construction could "disrupt" the dock's operations and lead to additional costs.

As for potential disruptions to service on the Wolfe Island ferry, however, Salter-Keane said that wouldn't be an issue.

"The cruise ships would work with the ferry scheduling to ensure that the ferries have the right-of-way," she said.

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