The Sydney port authorities’ attempts to resolve the capacity problems at the Overseas Passenger Terminal has been shunned by the major cruise lines, it can be revealed.
Cruise Passenger reported two months ago that NSW Ports had a plan to “double stack” vessels at the famous terminal, which lies between twin icons The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
But now we can reveal all the major cruise lines have pleged they won’t use the controversial stacking system – and Cruise Lines International Association Australasia, their lobbying body, has told the State Government the industry won’t back the plan.
Double stacking meant large vessels which couldn’t go under the bridge to The White Bay Cruise Terminal – increasingly the norm as new ships grow in size – would be forced to share OPT wharves.
One ship would dock at 5am and leave at lunchtime. The next would dock just after lunch and leave in the evening.
But concerned cruise line bosses maintained disembarking passengers in the early hours, when Sydney facilities were shut, was no way to treat high spending tourists.
And the risk of a mishap meant thousands of passengers would be delayed.
The industry-wide decision to boycott double stacking has been backed by Ann Sherry of Carnival Cruise Lines, the biggest operator in Australia, who has been pushing the State and Federal Governments to persuade the Royal Australian Navy to share Garden island.
The Navy, which has not played host to a cruise ship since 2013, is redeveloping the city facility and indicated there was less likelihood of sharing after the multi-million dollar refit.
Ms Sherry told Cruise Passenger the industry believed this was “a long term game”.
The boycott is bad news for the NSW economy, as cruise guests spend millions of dollars in city shops and tourism facilities.
Senior cruise line operators from American like Adam Goldstein of Royal Caribbean and Harry Sommer of Norwegian Cruise Lines have maintained that Sydney could be a centre for cruising in the region if Australia made investment in a new cruise facility.
They point out that new billion-dollar cruise ships currently under construction won’t go under Sydney Harbour Bridge, so matters can only get worse.
The State Government is pinning its hopes on a long awaited 25-year plan for the cruise industry. But it is hard to see what the plan might say, given even Port Botany, home to the nation’s container ships, is suffering capacity problems.
Melinda Pavey MP, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, told Cruise Passenger:
“The government and the Port Authority are considering a number of options including the concept of a secondary timeslot (double stacking) at the Overseas Passenger Terminal which would allow two ships to turn around in a 24 hour period.
“The NSW Government has made no decisions regarding the use of double stacking, and any option to increase capacity of the existing assets would be subject to consultation with industry.
“The Government understands and supports the preference from the cruise industry for a third terminal east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is being considered as part of the development of a 25-year Cruise Plan.”