OSWEGO — Through a new partnership announced by a Port of Oswego Authority partner, the Port City could see improved tourism developments in the coming years through cruise liners making Oswego a stop for the first time.
The U.S. Great Lakes Cruise Coalition (GLCC) announced it is partnering with the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System (GLSLS) Hwy H20 Program — a partner with Port of Oswego Authority — to introduce more cruises into the Great Lakes region.
“We are excited to align our membership with a group that has a globally recognized brand,” said U.S. Chair of the GLCC Dave Gutheil in a release. “We believe (this) will bring additional marketing and operational value to our current and future members.”
Hwy H20 is a 3,700-kilometer highway managed by the GLSLS. It spans the entire Great Lakes system and “offers shippers direct access to the commercial, industrial and agricultural heartland of North America,” according to the highway’s website (www.hwyh2o.com).
Along the highway are more than 20 ports and according to Port of Oswego Authority Executive Director William Scriber, Oswego’s port is in a fantastic location compared to others.
“Oswego is a (great) destination because we are the first port on the Great Lakes, so it would be natural for cruise lines to come here,” Scriber said.
However, Scriber said it will be at least a few years until we’ll see cruise lines arrive in the Port City because right now, the port can’t host the large cruise lines as current construction in several key sectors of the port is underway.
“We are working with the assumption that we need a dock that can handle this size, and that’s our west dock,” Scriber said, adding that the west dock will start construction later this year after it sustained damage in 2017 from high water levels.
He stressed that the cruise ships that will make a stop at Oswego will not be the large, ocean-traveling ships, but smaller vessels similar to ones used in and around Europe’s extensive river and canal system. He said these are smaller, two-deck ships that will hold up to 200 people.
Bringing in cruise lines has been an ongoing project for years and falls right in line with the Port of Oswego Authority’s primary mission, Scriber noted.
“The Port Authority was created in 1955 to ‘create commercial, support industrial business, support historical preservation and recreational opportunities.’ This is in our mandate of what we are supposed to do, create tourism. It’s one of our four main points of why we exist,” he said.
Scriber said that bringing the cruise-goers into the city would bring beneficial economic impact to the local economy.
H. Lee White Maritime Museum (HLWMM) Executive Director Mercedes Niess agreed. She said that once cruise lines start stopping at the West Pier — located next to the museum — it will help them tremendously.
“We are excited for this because we know it will impact us dramatically,” Niess said. “We are hoping this will impact our visitation and push up sales and other programs.”
Additionally, Scriber was excited to announce that once the west pier is finalized and ready for the cruise liners, tall ships could potentially follow suit.
Tall ships haven’t been in Oswego for a few years. One of the most recent popular events was when replicas of the historical Niña and Pinta ships stopped here. According to Niess, the HLWMM is responsible for the boats once they dock here and hosting their events.
She said these ships are popular among residents as they draw their sailor hats and ride on boats the same way their ancestors did. She estimated that the nearly 8,000 boarded the Niña and Pinta when they stopped here.
“One of the reasons we haven’t had tall ships in a while is that the pier condition has been so poor,” Niess said. “With the improvements along the pier, that will make it easier to attract tall ships here and have tall ship events.”
Scriber said plans for the west pier work would happen later this year after completing the marina project. As the cruise ships’ anticipated arrival draws closer, Scriber said the Port of Oswego Authority would work with the Oswego County Tourism Department to attract cruise lines. He said currently, one cruise line is in talks to make Oswego a stop.