Beginning in the late 1990s, cruise ship traffic to San Francisco nearly tripled, putting increased strain on what the San Francisco Examiner called “the aging, too-small and hard-to-access Pier 35.” Sixty-four cruise ships docked there in 2013.
According to San Francisco Public Works, “The existing primary terminal at Pier 35 has neither the sufficient capacity to allow for the increasing length and passenger capacity of new cruise ships nor the amenities needed for an international cruise terminal.”
In 2006, a Blue Ribbon Cruise Terminal Advisory Panel was formed to evaluate the need for a new cruise terminal. In 2007, the Port Commission accepted the panel’s recommendation to build a modern cruise terminal at Pier 27.
In 2009, the Port Commission reached agreement with a design team for the project. The following year, the City reached an agreement with the Golden Gate Yacht Club to host the America’s Cup, including the use of Pier 27 as “the major entertainment, hospitality and spectator viewing center for the racing event.”
In 2009, San Francisco Department of Public Works and the Port of San Francisco retained Mott MacDonald to assess vessel mooring and berthing conditions, develop recommendations for the mooring system, and evaluate maneuvering and berthing improvements. Two design vessels, the Queen Mary 2 (1,132 feet or 345 meters long) and the Sapphire Princess (950 feet or 289 meters long) were used for the analysis.
Mott MacDonald compiled and analyzed terminal, vessel, tide, and wind data, and numerically modeled the generation of wind waves, tidal currents, and passing vessel forces. We also conducted real-time ship maneuvering simulations with members of the San Francisco Bar Pilots Association in order to develop and test berth widening schemes intended to improve navigation safety and eliminate arrival and departure adjustments being made to avoid strong entrance currents.
Demolition of the Pier 27 shed began in February 2012, and Phase 1 construction began in April 2012. The terminal received its first ship, Princess Cruises’ Crown Princess, on September 18, 2014, a week before its official grand opening.
The new Pier 27 terminal, named after labor leader James R. Herman, is a corrugated aluminum structure 40 feet (12 meters) tall and 504 feet (153 meters) long. It houses ticketing and baggage areas, security operations, and a Customs and Border Protection Area, and can handle cruise ships with up to 4,000 passengers.
The terminal has been certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Electric shore power is provided so that ships do not have to run their engines while in port. A 2.5-acre (1-hectare) green space called the Northeast Wharf Plaza is located along the west end of the pier.
The Port of San Francisco expects the new terminal to increase the City’s cruise traffic. Eighty-one ship calls were scheduled for 2015, with 300,000 passengers expected.