Concerns raised about UK immigration impact on cruise industry

15 Apr 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

MSPs have expressed their concern about the impact of changes to the UK immigration system on the cruise sector.

The industry is particularly lucrative for Scotland, with visitors from cruise ships estimated to have generated £41 million for the country's economy last year alone. However, UK Border Agency has taken a stricter approach to new immigration rules recently and there is some concern that the possibility of every cruise ship passenger undergoing a face-to-face interview when disembarking will have a negative impact on business.

The Scottish Government has come together to write a letter to the UK minister of state for immigration, Mark Harper, in an attempt to change the situation.

The letter, sent from Fergus Ewing, minister for energy, enterprise and tourism, described the new form of action as "very damaging", adding: "It reduces the length of time available on-shore and makes cruise companies less inclined to call at UK ports – both are highly detrimental to local economies."

It also noted that some international cruise operators are currently considering withdrawing their business from "all UK ports, not just Scottish ports", if the immigration problem is not resolved, despite the fact that the country has been recognised in cruise industry awards of late as a top destination.

The checks essentially mean that while cruise ships passengers and crews used to be cleared in advance with manifests check through agents, ships will now potentially have all their passengers checked in face-to-face interviews when they disembark at a UK destination.

Mr Ewing added that the checks are also "functionally redundant! As they "duplicate the rigorous controls performed at the port of embarkation when passengers initially check-in for cruise embarkation".

The issue has been highlighted several times in the past but has yet to receive any serious attention from those in control of the immigration systems.