The Valletta Waterfront Experience: Back to the Future


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Presentation by John Portelli, CEO of Valletta Cruise Port at Seatrade Med 2012 in Marseilles, as part of the Waterfront Development session. Private company,
Valletta Cruise Port regenerated a historical port and converted it into a cruise terminal as well as a destination for locals, passengers and tourists. Valletta Cruise Port looked to the past in order to create a sustainable future.

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  • These two days in Marseille, our focus is cruising in the Mediterranean. Why do people visit the Mediterranean?Passengers want to experience history and culture. In my short presentation, I will explain, how a private company rehabilitated a historical port and converted it into a cruise terminal as well as a destination for locals and tourists. Valletta Cruise Port’s experience was to look to the past in order to create our future.
  • An area steeped in history. Featured in chronicles and praised by St. Luke, Cicero, Voltaire, Byron, Scott and Monsserat and painted by Turner, the port of Valletta has always linked our country not only with our neighbouring countries and the Mediterranean but also with the rest of the world. Designed and built in the 15th century as a military city and port, in the 18th century, the port and city of Valletta were transformed into a commercial centre. The year 1754, saw the development of warehouses at the water’s edge and in front of the military fortifications. Commerce over conflict. The waterfront stores linked Malta to the world and some even say, they were amongst the first transhipment depots in Europe.Just as in the 1700s and the years that followed, Valletta Cruise Port is continuing this tradition, only this time by serving cruise liners. It is an area bequeathed to us by our ancestors and to whom we are obliged to return it to future generations: this is why we have to look back to improve our future.
  • Despite its glorious past, in the decades following the second world war, the importance of the Grand Harbour diminished steadily. As a direct result of this decline, the cities and towns around the port of Valletta, started to die a slow death with people leaving these areas. This in turn, fuelled decline in Harbour use and so on in a vicious circle. Starting in the nineties, Government proceeded to privatise the few remaining activities in the Grand Harbour. This policy was to bring about the regeneration of the port area as well as that of the surrounding towns and villages.In 1996, Government launched the privatisation of the cruise facilities. In 1998, the winning consortium, VISET, later to be renamed Valletta Cruise Port, was awarded the tender. A 65 year lease agreement and a licence were signed in 2001. Thus started the work.
  • The task at hand was not an easy one. We inherited buildings either destroyed by the war or in disuse. The area was ignored save for the cars that passed through it. Yet we knew that we had been entrusted with a historical site, which in itself presents specific restrictions to any developer. Our architects had to be both creative and flexible whilst the company and its shareholders had to come up with a business plan that builds on these restrictions, develops an international cruise terminal according to industry criteria and grows the number of cruise passengers and ship calls.
  • THE RESULT:A premier cruise destination.A popular destination with locals and tourists.Task: To rehabilitate the quays, wharves, stores and entire waterfront area into a modern cruise terminal capable of handling the largest cruise ships and to provide a new destination for foreign and local clientele.Cost: €37 million investment.
  • The waterfront stores was a link to the sea and we recreated this link as part of our rehabilitation of the area. This meant shifting an arterial road to the back of the waterfront. Today the waterfront hosts offices, restaurants and retail outlets. It is a destination in its own right and it blends with the cruise operation activity, which is, after all Valletta Cruise Port’s core activity. The waterfront, also helps in managing the flow of passengers.
  • The water Plaza together with the Waterfront was and is intended to create a public area for locals and tourists to “EXPERIENCE” the port and its history. Hence whilst many argue that privatisation “takes away” national assets from the citizens, the cruise terminal privatisation has actually returned a “jewel” to the public who can now enjoy their heritage. Our memorial to the Child Migrant is not only a memorial to the Maltese who had to leave their country – supposedly for a better live. But it is also, in a way, a monument for whom the sea is a way and a means to life.
  • The design of our terminals has been such that it creates an ambience of “flow” – a movement of people as well as of history. We must change to survive, but we also change to create and what we create is for now and the future. We have 13 bars and restuarants, sixteen offices, four retail outlets all merged and operating in conjunction with the cruise operations. Although it must be said that the waterfront comes alive at night and during the weekends (afternoons and evenings). We provide discounts for crew members. Our waterfront has free wifi.
  • The Cruise passenger terminal is like a sculptural game of mass and fluidity. Ramps and steps are carved out of the limestone mass and develop into buildings. The architecture articulates the transition between the angular rigidity of the bastions and the streamline cruise liners.The cruise passenger terminal is compliant both with ISPS and the incoming EU 1177/2010 regulations on passenger rights.
  • The design of the passenger terminals supports a smooth and secure transfer of passengers through underground passageways that link the check-in areas to the quays and onward to the ships. All the facilities are equipped with passengers’ and luggages’ scanning equipment. Our check-in areas cater for links to ships to allow simultaneous check-in on land and on ships. The whole area has cctv surveillance. Part of the old power station was converted for check-in and passenger services. Whenever possible, Valletta Cruise port also uses and leases its facilities, including the check-in hall and quays for public events. We brought people back to the port – their port.
  • The design of our terminals enabled Valletta Cruise Port handle thegrowth of around 11% per annum in passenger movementssince 2001. From around 170,000 in 1999 to close to 600,000 in 2012. We exceeded the projections made in our 2002 - 2010 business plan and those of the 2010 – 2015 plan. Our quays can simultenouelsy host three 250 m plus ships in one day. Since 2011, we served as TUI Cruises’ homeport for the Mediterranean. In total, around 48% of cruise ships visiting the Mediterranean, stop in the port of Valletta. Nevertheless we are aware that we face a future of challenges. The cruise industry in the Mediterranean is constantly evolving. It is surely different from the one we knew when we competed for the cruise terminal tender. To survive we must adapt to these changes, just like our ancestors who rehabilitated a military city and port into a commercial port open to ships from different ports and countries.
  • Valletta Cruise Port has yet more investment plans. These include:FURTHER IMPROVEMENTS IN CRUISE FACILITIES MARINA (Letter of Intent) and submitted planning permits’ application.CAR PARK FACILITIES AND MORE OFFICES (2,000 SQM) - Build, Operate and Transfer tender. POWERSTATION (3,600 SQM) – BOT. In its bid document which lead to the selection of Valletta as the European Capital of Culture for 2018, the Government identified the powerstation as the site for the Malta Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. In December, an elevator will link Valletta Cruise Port to the centre of Valletta – part of the Valletta and Grand Harbour Regeneration Project.
  • Since 2005, Valletta Cruise Port received twelve international awards for its port, terminal and waterfront design and development.
  • Like the ships and passengers that visit our port, these past ten years, have been a journey. A journey not only to discover ourselves but all those who visit us. Our buildings welcome passengers to Malta, its people, history and culture. We want our passenger and all those who visit Valletta Cruise Port, to experience history in a comfortable and welcoming environment.
  • Last month, Valletta was selected as the Culture Capital of Europe for 2018. A number of events will be happening in the harbour area, starting this year and ending in 2019. My invitation to all of you, today, is to visit us and experience Valletta. Thank you. Acknowledgments: Designs of future projects (slide 12) : AP Architectural ProjectsSlide 15: V18 Bid DocumentOld Photos: Richard EllisOld Paintings: National Library, Government of Malta
  • The Valletta Waterfront Experience: Back to the Future

    2. 2. VCP Propriety 11/2012 2
    3. 3. 5/23/2013 VISET Malta plc 33
    4. 4. 4Our taskVCP Propriety 11/2012• Vacating Properties (48,000 sqm).• Shifting of road to the back of thevaults• New office for Transport Malta• Excavation of Water Plaza• Restoration of 1754 buildings andconversion into offices, restaurantsand shops.• Development of 900 m of quays.
    5. 5. VCP Propriety 11/2012 5
    6. 6. The Water PlazaVCP Propriety 11/2012 6The road shifted to the back of the restored stores, creating a pedestrian areaoverlooking the water plaza which follows the original quay line
    7. 7. The Water PlazaVCP Propriety 11/2012 7CHILD MIGRANT’S MEMORIALINAUGURATED 2ND MARCH 2008
    8. 8. 8The Waterfront ExperienceVCP Propriety 11/2012
    9. 9. The Cruise TerminalVCP Propriety 11/2012 9
    10. 10. Our Cruise TerminalVCP Propriety 11/2012 10
    11. 11. 11Total Cruise Passenger MovementsVCP Propriety 11/20120100000200000300000400000500000600000700000
    12. 12. VCP Propriety 11/2012 12• Furtherimprovements incruise facilities• Marina (Letter ofIntent)• Car park and offices(2000 sqm: BOT)• PowerstationConversion (3,600sqm: BOT)The Future
    13. 13. • 2005: Environmental Award for Conservation (MEPA)• 2005: Architectural Heritage (Din L-Art Helwa)• 2006: Europa Nostra Award• 2007: Most Improved Destination (Dream Cruise Magazine)• 2008: Most Improved Port Facility (Dream Cruise Magazine)• 2008: Destination of the Year (Seatrade Insider)• 2009: World Architectural Community Award• 2010: Best International Port in the Mediterranean (ExcellenceCruise Awards)• 2010: Best Destination Experience (Dream Cruise Magazine)• 2010: Merit Award (American Society of Landscape Architects)• 2011: Best Turnaround Port (Cruise Insight)• 2011: Most Responsive Port (Cruise Insight)• 2012: Waterfront Centre Global Award for Excellence• 2012: ULI Global Award for Excellence13AwardsVCP Propriety 11/2012
    14. 14. Our History
    15. 15. Our