The British Columbia cruise industry cluster was the focus of this April 2014 of BC Shipping News article. It introduced the concept of maritime business clusters and used examples from BC’s cruise sector to illustrate the extent of local industrial linkages and the magnitude of the business-to-business economic contribution to our communities. It also showed how innovation within this cluster is contributing to sustainable shipping on our coast.

Maritime clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field that are present in a region. Clusters arise because they increase the productivity with which companies can compete.

The concept of business clusters has been widely used in the context of economic and competitiveness policies for maritime-related activities in European countries, reports the 2010 working paper The Economic Significance of Maritime Clusters. Most notably, the Friuli Venezia Giulia cruise industry cluster in Italy has 400 members. For business development purposes their membership includes representatives from chambers of commerce, shipyards, subcontractors, suppliers, cruise tourism destination development organizations, naval engineers, vocational training institutes, the superyacht sector, among others.

The British Columbia Cruise Industry Cluster

British Columbia is the heart of the Canadian cruise industry accounting for more than 50 percent of the total annual passenger traffic. Compared to the Italian example, the province does not have a fully developed cruise industry cluster strategy. There has been a group of operationally minded individuals who have been working to advance the collective and individual business development interests of BC’s cruise sector since 1986.

The Cruise Industry Association of BC (CIABC) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting British Columbia as the leading destination and supplier of services and products to the cruise industry. Members range in size from small, owner-operated companies to large, multinational corporations, and their membership includes business services, crew, medical and transportation services, cruise line agents, electronics suppliers, port authorities, tourism services, ship chandler and supplies, ship services and repair, and stevedoring firms.

The promotion and development of BC’s cruise industry cluster ought to be an important economic priority for governments, companies, and academic institutions and not just for those in the maritime sector. This article also raises the question of whether the benefits of a maritime cluster approach to sustainable development in BC would complement the work of the ongoing gateway infrastructure initiative and help us reach the goal of Vancouver becoming a maritime centre of excellence.