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New Cozumel Cruise Ship Pier Could Affect Popular Tourist Attraction Area 

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Cozumel is an island off of the coast of Playa del Carmen, a much-loved tourist destination not far from the very busy tourist city of Cancun.  The island is particularly popular among the hundreds of thousands of cruise ship passengers that flood its ports every year.  Currently, there are three ports that, according to reports, do not typically reach capacity, yet now a new Cozumel cruise ship pier may be built and could affect a popular tourist attraction area.

Three Carnival Cruise Ships in Cozumel, Mexico with Tourists Walking Around

This fourth pier was proposed more than a year ago but has faced a lot of opposition from locals, tourists, and environmental groups.  Arguments against building the pier are that it will destroy the work being done to restore coral reefs in an area off of the island.  A provisional suspension of the project was previously granted, but protesters of the project want to see a full suspension. 

Cozumel Sign

Around 100 of those who oppose the project protested against it on Tuesday, saying that not only is it an environmental issue but a local issue too.  Building the pier would also take away the only real public beach that locals have to use in Cozumel.  Although various municipal authorities have supported the pier project, the opposition was present right from the beginning, not just from locals but from larger environmental activist groups and tourists as well.   

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Cruise Ship Pier With a Boat Next to It and Buildings in the Background In Cozumel, Mexico

The Global Coral Reef Alliance said in a statement that “The new proposal to build the fourth cruise ship dock on Cozumel will destroy the most important project to regenerate coral.”  And while there is little coral in the location now, environmentalists hope to restore what has already been destroyed by past human activity.  The area is reportedly a popular spot for diving and snorkeling, one of the main reasons tourists visit the island.  


Cozumel gets roughly five million visitors in total every year that arrive on the island in one of three ways.  In addition to arriving by cruise ship, many tourists fly into Cozumel International Airport as well.  Others fly into Cancun International Airport, which is only about two hours away, get a ride to Playa del Carmen, and then take a ferry over to the island from there. 

People Snorkeling in the water in Cozumel, Mexico

Direct flights to Cozumel are available from the U.S. and Canada, and in fact, just a few months ago there was an increase in the number of flights to the island.  Flights from Charlotte, for example, arrive once a week and only take around three hours but the tickets can be pricey, as much as $400 one way.  This is why many choose to fly into Cancun and either spend a few days there before going to Cozumel or leave from Cancun Airport and head directly to the island.   

Scuba diver in blue water looking at coral reef.

Proponents of the addition of another pier argue that the cruise industry is expected to grow in the near future, once it fully recovers from the pandemic.  In 2022 over 3 million tourists arrived in Cozumel by cruise ship, which represents an increase of more than 300 percent compared to 2021.  The number of ships that arrived with this huge number of tourists was around 1,200, over 200 more than was initially estimated earlier in the year.   

Fish swimming around coral in Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel is home to numerous reefs that are part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, which is one of the largest reef systems in the world.  Because the wildlife and coral that lives in the reef are connected throughout, the effects of what happens in Cozumel can be felt well beyond the island.  This is likely something on the minds of those against the new Cozumel pier. 

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Friday 20th of October 2023

I have been spending about 3 months per year on the island, mainly doing volunteer work on the Coral Reef Restoration Project. I am extremely sad to say that I have witnessed a rapid deterioration of the reefs in the eight years that I have been visiting the island. It is so bad that I rarely go on any boat dives any more. Many of our local friends who make their living from the tourist industry are in favor of the cruise ships because it means more money to them, but I can't help but wonder what will happen to the local economy once the divers stop coming. Already the prices at restaurants, grocery stores, and places to stay have increased so much that I fear many locals won't be able to afford to live there any more.

Mike Gamboa

Sunday 29th of January 2023

They have ruined the Island too many Ships and way too many people I don't think I will be going back