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Know as the Quantum class, the upcoming giant cruise ships are being built by Royal Caribbean International.
The first two ships of this class, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, are expected to be delivered in November 2014 and April 2015, respectively. A third ship is expected to be delivered mid-2016.
The new vessels will weigh in at 167,800 gross tonnes and carry up to 4905 passengers.
As massive as they sound, the Quantum ships will not be the largest liners on the ocean. Royal Caribbean International already has two Oasis class liners - Oasis of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas - which can carry about 6000 passengers.
At present, the largest ship coming to New Zealand is Voyager of the Seas, which carries about 3000 passengers.
Port Otago general manager Peter Brown said the cruise company had indicated it was interested in bringing the Quantum class to New Zealand ports for the 2017 season.
In the next few months, Port Otago pilots would be using a computer simulation to determine whether the port could handle the Quantum class, he said.
The simulation would give pilots confidence as to whether they could guide the ship into the harbour and what weather conditions it would be safe to complete the task in, Mr Brown said.
If it was possible to get the ship into the wharves, Mr Brown did not predict any issues in dealing with the increased number of passengers disembarking.
‘‘Let's not get too excited, the largest ship coming to Dunedin already carries 3000 passengers,'' he said.
Enterprise Dunedin business development adviser Sophie Barker said she was confident the city would be able to cope with an increased number of passengers as it had dealt with large numbers on days when there had been two or more cruise ships in port several times in the past.
Last year, the largest number of passengers in port on one day had been 7200, on December 13, she said.
Cruise New Zealand general manager Raewyn Tan said cruise liners were building bigger vessels because the smaller ships generated smaller returns making it less cost effective to run them.
- by Jonathan Childton-Towle