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The m/s Paul Gauguin overnight's in Moorea on most itineraries.

French Polynesia to ban mega ships from calling at their ports

A number of South Pacific island countries have begun to ban mega ships from entering their waters with Tahiti revealing new restrictions.

More than a third of Tahiti’s visitors are from cruise ships, but late in September, the French Polynesian government announced that cruise ships with a capacity greater than 3,500 will be banned from making port calls in the country.

From January 1, 2022, ships with a capacity of more than 2,5000 passengers will be limited to calls at Tahiti and two other ports with the sufficient infrastructure to accommodate them.

While Bora Bora will limit daily cruise passenger to 1,200, which will bar most larger cruise ships from berthing.

Locals had been requesting limits since early 2019 to “preserve the beauty of its lagoon as well as the quality of service which has made it famous,” according to a government release.

Most cruise passengers in Tahiti sail onboard small ships like Paul Gauguin and the cargo cruise ship Aranui 5. Both have fewer than 350 passengers each.

French Polynesia do not often see large cruise ships, but with the growing number of companies launching new vessels, the government is taking proactive measures.

“Both in terms of capacity and size, [very large ships] are not suited for our destination,” said the French Polynesian government in a statement.

This may affect several cruise lines who call at ports in French Polynesia on repositioning voyages in the Pacific. Royal Princess and her sister ship, Majestic Princess, which have capacity for 3,600 passengers, currently plan to call at Tahiti while repositioning to Australia in September 2022. Royal Princess also has a scheduled port call in Bora Bora.

Tahiti has long been an important port call for cruise lines as it is one of the only ports in the expansive Pacific Ocean. Without a port call, the voyage between New Zealand and Hawaii would take over a week.

The president of French Polynesia, Édouard Fritch, said in a statement that exceptional circumstances will be considered for transpacific voyages. A spokesperson for Princess Cruises told Conde Naste Traveler they “are in dialogue with port officials” and that they “hope not to cancel any planned calls.”

But is this move the start of the mega-ship ban for some countries?

Venice has long fought overtourism and has now capped cruise ship capacity. Since August 1, cruise ships over 25,000 tonnes have been banned from entering Venice’s lagoon, and instead, berthing at the industrial port of Marghera. Passengers are then bused into the historic city centre.