Nanaimo’s cruise ship terminal has hardly been used since it opened in 2011.

Attracting cruise ships to the city has been a challenge with just three visiting this year.

“We’d obviously like to see more but it’s disappointing when the efforts you put in are not rewarded,” said Ian Marr, Nanaimo Port Authority’s CEO.

And the Port Authority blames the low numbers on what it says was a malicious letter that was sent to cruise lines 16 months ago.

While no one with the Port Authority has actually seen the letter, they say they received three calls from the industry about it.

It’s alleged to have outlined safety concerns about Nanaimo’s cruise ship dock.

“We did get some people wondering about that, that are in the business, and we had to assure them that it wasn’t [a concern] but people believe negative before they believe positive,” said Marr. “So that could’ve really significantly impacted the business.”

A cruise ship insider says there were concerns about corrosion to the pilings that support the cruise ship dock.

The port authority says it did undertake corrosion protection to the dock’s pilings in 2018.

It cost $318,000.

“At some point in time, you have to put additional layering of protection onto that and we’ve done that with this facility,” said Marr. “It was the time for that and that’s all there is to it. It was not repairs. It’s just normal stuff.”

The port authority says at no point was the facility unsafe to use.

At Flying Fish, a downtown store, business triples on cruise ship days. They’d love to see more cruise ships visit Nanaimo but one employee questions how one letter would impact this year’s visits so much.

“It’s a little suspicious for me. The fact that one letter would have so much pull and why they don’t want to investigate further,” said Gina Moscrip of Flying Fish.

But the port authority says the letter is in the past and it wants to focus on attracting cruise ships.

“It’s up to the community to do the tourism side of it and give people something to come here for and I think they’re doing that,” said Marr. “With the combination of all working together I think we will see growth in the next five years.”

2020 will be a better year for Nanaimo The port authority says it has commitments for seven cruise ship visits.

Kendall Hanson