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Visionary Port Project in Detroit - Great Lakes cruise ships to have port downtown
May 17, 2004
The Detroit-Wayne County Port Authority will break ground next month on a public dock and terminal building at the foot of Bates Street, west of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Renaissance Center.

The $11 million project is the culmination of six years of searching for the right site and adequate funding, said Steven Olinek, deputy director of the authority.

The dock will be a port for Great Lakes cruise ships and other vessels using the Detroit River. Currently, cruise ships stop at ports in Port Huron, Windsor, Toronto, Chicago and several small towns in Michigan and Ontario.

"This will enable Detroit to market itself as a cruise ship destination," Olinek said. "Detroit was founded on its strategic location on the lakes long before it became the Motor City."

The economic impact of this port will be considerable, according to Stephen Burnett, executive director of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition in Toronto. The coalition, which Olinek chairs and Detroit is a member of, supports passenger cruises on the Great Lakes and is comprised of American and Canadian port cities and states that border the Great Lakes.

Burnett conducted an economic impact study last winter for the benefit of ship owners, tour operators, travel agents and consumers. It determined that cruise ships on the Great Lakes are projected to have a $36.8 million impact on port cities based on consumer and tourism revenue, pre-cruise and after-cruise activities, and marine requirements such as docking fees, fuel and garbage disposal.

Burnett called the Detroit port "an extremely bold move that shows vision."

"Detroit has a waterfront with an incredible history," he said. "When the new terminal is up and running, it will be a catalyst for change. Other things will happen."

Burnett projected in his study that, if all rooms sell, nine ships with 11,000 berths will be making 81 departures this summer on the Great Lakes.

Burnett and Olinek compared the Great Lakes cruising scene to that of Alaska in the 1960s.

"Back then, like ours, some of their ports were ready; some were not. But we have all the elements to make this work here," Burnett said. "The Great Lakes is the last uncruised region in the world."

By Marti Benedetti

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