A cruise ship that was supposed to dock at St. George's next year will have to drop anchor out at sea because she is too big to get through Town Cut.

Simulation tests carried out on the MS Veendam, pictured, have revealed she would hit the bottom if she tried to sail through the narrow entrance to St. George's Harbour.

As a result, the liner will now have to drop anchor at Murray's Anchorage near Fort St. Catherine and passengers will be ferried into the town.

The news has sparked concern among community leaders in St. George's who fear it could mean fewer passengers visiting the town.

MP Kim Swan said: "I have heard from a few merchants in St. George's who are disappointed that this vessel will not be coming all the way in to St. George's.

"They were looking forward to the prospect of this large cruise ship coming in, along with its many passengers."

The town's mayor, Kenneth Bascome, said: "We in the town of St. George's have been in discussion with the government.

"I would ask the government to make an official statement on what is happening and then I will make a statement."

Mr. Swan said St. George's is still reeling from a business standpoint.

"We have been hit by a triple whammy; with the closure of the golf course, the exodus of regular cruise ships and the wait for a hotel on the hill.

"We have to make every effort to maximize the numbers of persons that come in to the town.

"The Ministry of Transport needs to confirm what is going to happen and what the contingencies are for bringing the passengers into St. George's.

"We are talking about jobs that need to be maintained.

"We need everything to be done to ensure the maximum number of passengers get to St. George's."

The Veendam, which is run by Holland America, is due to visit St. George's 24 times next year.

The original plan was for her to dock in the town for a day before heading down to Hamilton for the rest of her stay.

But tests conducted in November on the vessel, which show she is too big to travel safely through Town Cut, have necessitated a re-think.

The Veendam was set to be the only regular caller to dock at St George's next year.

There are only a couple of other cruise ships that will come alongside at Ordnance Island - but they only stay for a short period of time.

The Bermuda Sun contacted the government press office for an official statement yesterday afternoon.

We were told the ministry would review our questions and give a response on Thursday.

We also contacted Holland America and asked for a statement. At the time we went to press last night we were still waiting for a response.