Cruise liners to act as World Cup hotels

South Africa, short of accommodation for nearly half a million fans expected to flock to next year's World Cup, plans to use cruise liners as floating hotels.

International football officials have identified transport and accommodation as two areas where improvements are needed as South Africa prepares to host the finals for the first time in Africa next June.

South African Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said Portugal, hosts of the 2004 European championship, had made successful use of cruise ships.

"They are going to be quite important especially for 2010 both as people movers and even as accommodation," Ndebele told Reuters on Wednesday during a visit to London.

He said officials in South Africa were getting a good response from shipping companies.

He did not say how many ships would be used as "floating hotels", but expected them to be moored in Durban and Cape Town.

Ndebele said South Africa was on course to make the World Cup a success for the 450,000 foreign visitors expected in the country, despite the misgivings about transport and accommodation.

"The world wants a successful World Cup and we are quite confident we are going to deliver it. We have delivered already quite major events in South Africa," he said.

The country had hosted the Confederations Cup, seen as a trial run for the World Cup.

"It was a spectacular success," Ndebele said.

Extra buses were being acquired, the rail system was being upgraded and key airports extended, allowing fans to be transported to key World Cup venues.

"We are going to be able to move the fans quite efficiently," he said.

The biggest challenge was to ensure that fans knew where matches were taking place and knew how to get there. One of the lessons of the Confederations Cup was that signs in and around stadiums needed to be better, so fans knew where to go.

"It's not just about sport, it's about transport," Ndebele said.