City of Cape Town officials warn commuters to expect delays

Heavy traffic congestion alert as cruise ships arrive in Cape Town

11 April 2024 - 10:55
By Bobby Jordan
Queen Mary 2 is paying a second visit this month to Cape Town.
Image: Cunard Lines Queen Mary 2 is paying a second visit this month to Cape Town.

The City of Cape Town has warned there will be heavy traffic congestion over the next three days due to incoming cruise ships, including one of the world’s largest ocean liners.

“While traffic congestion is a headache at the best of times, it is important to keep in mind that events such as these are a sign of economic prosperity that ultimately enhance quality of life for all our residents,” the city said.

“We are going to try to manage the traffic congestion, but if you are heading into town ... please choose your route wisely to avoid being stuck in traffic,” cautioned safety and security MMC JP Smith. “A lot of passengers will be boarding. It is also bringing a lot of tourists. But what we need the most, it also brings a lot of jobs,” he added.

The Queen Victoria is due to dock on Thursday morning and depart on Friday evening. Its sister ship the Queen Mary 2 is due on Friday morning and departs on Saturday evening. The scheduled times are dependent on the weather.

Traffic officials plan to use CCTV cameras “to pinpoint the location and extent of vehicle queues throughout the day and activate appropriate signal timing plans to best manage the queues,” said the city’s head of urban mobility Rob Quintas. “Operators will be in constant contact with Cape Town traffic services and operations personnel at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Where appropriate, variable message signs of the Cape Town freeway management system will be used to alert motorists to areas of congestion on roadways.”

South African ports have seen a welcome increase in visiting ships due partly to security problems in the Red Sea that have forced some shipping companies to divert vessels around the Cape, rather than risk the shorter route through the Suez Canal.

The increase in marine traffic coincides with growth in the cruise sector, with 67 cruise ships counted in Cape Town so far this summer season — up from the average of 35-40 ships counted between 2016 and 2019.

“This is a sector of tourism that is deeply valuable for us, with research by Wesgro (travel and investment promotion agency) revealing that cruise tourism injected R1.2bn into the Western Cape economy between November 2022 and May 2023,” said the city’s head of economic growth James Vos.

“In addition, for every 30 arriving cruise passengers, the Western Cape cruise industry created one full-time job. This is worth bearing in mind when considering the thousands of passengers on board the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. The city will continue working closely with its partners to make Cape Town stand out on the global cruise travel map,” Vos said.