lifestyle, travel This is Cozumel
New Cozumel Cruise Pier
Digital image of how new pier will look

Work started on the construction of a new pier at Carnival's Puerta Maya port, in Cozumel, at the end of last month.

With an investment of over $20 million, a new "arm" will be added to the existing pier to allow three ships to be moored at the cruise line's terminal at the same time.

In an exclusive interview with This is Cozumel, David Candib, Vice President for Global Destinations and Port Development at Carnival, said, "We are excited to embark on the expansion of Puerta Maya that allows not only our brands to add deployment to Cozumel, but also enables the destination to grow".

Work has started
Work started at the end of last month

Candib said they hope to complete the construction of the new 485 foot (148m) pier next summer and be ready to operate in time for the start of the 2015/2016 winter season.

Although he couldn't give specific numbers, he said the extra capacity will allow more ships to call in Cozumel and boost the local economy, including other Carnival group brands that have not made as many calls to the island as they would like in the past.

Making space for 3 ships
New pier "arm" will be added to allow space for 3 ships

Puerta Maya is one of three cruise terminals in Cozumel. It is owned by Carnival and used mainly by their ships and others in their group, such as Princess cruises.

Digital image
Digital image of how it will look when finished (Puerta Maya with new arm indicated on left, International SSA pier on right)

The other island terminals used by cruise lines are the International SSA dock almost next door, used frequently by Royal Caribbean ships, and the Punta Langosta pier downtown, used mostly by Disney cruise lines.

Concerns spawn new environmental group

The new pier is the latest phase in an ambitious redevelopment plan for Puerta Maya that was approved by Mexican authorities following the destruction of the terminal by Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

From the beginning many local environmentalists and scuba diving professionals have objected to the construction so close to Cozumel's Marine Park and famous reefs, some of which are just hundreds of feet away.

Destruction of pier
Original Puerta Maya pier (indicated left) was destroyed by Hurricane Wilma

The recent renewed construction at Puerta Maya has led to the creation of a new "civil society collective" called Cozumel Vivo (Cozumel Alive), that has vowed to keep a close watch on activity at the port and fight for social and environmental causes on the island.

Spokespeople for the group told This is Cozumel they are concerned debris and silt from the construction process will damage the marine ecosystem and the extra traffic from ships will pose a danger to divers and snorkelers in the area. They have launched a Facebook group to help promote awareness of threats they see to the island's ecology and society.

Concerns over safety
Concerns over construction process, the environment and diver safety

In response to the group's concerns, Candib said Carnival are following all the measures recommended in the project's 2008 environmental impact study, including the containment of sediment and working with an environmental consultant and Marine Park officials to monitor conditions at 7 stations within the nature reserve.

He said they also have construction protocols to protect divers and snorkelers nearby and ships are guided carefully, "as part of the emphasis to make safety the top priority."