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Australia’s cruise industry is expanding – but it is missing out on bigger and better ships because the nation’s ports are full, a new report claims.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) says the industry’s economic worth has increased one billion dollars in a year, up 27 per cent to $4.6 billion.
Some 18,000 jobs – an increase of 23 per cent – are linked to the success of cruising.
But CLIA Australasia’s chairman Steve Odell, who also heads up Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, said international tourist numbers have dropped because of capacity restraints – mainly centred on Sydney.
Cruise lines are building bigger ships to meet demand – but they won’t go under Sydney’s Harbour Bridge.
Because the Navy occupies Garden Island, and the Overseas Passenger Terminal can only take one large ship, the most prestigious port in Australia is basically full.
And while Sydney is trialling double berthing – turning around two big ships a single day – lines like Norwegian can’t meet demand.
Indeed, Norwegian – which plans to bring one of its fleet to Sydney next year – almost didn’t put Australia on its itinerary. Mr Odell maintained the line could put up to four ships in the region, if only there was somewhere to berth them.
So what is Australia loosing? The rapid rise of Asia means ships are looking for places to visit during the region’s winter – but Australia is at capacity at this time.
International passenger spend up to $708 a day in pre-cruise and post-cruise visits, while Australians spending $485.
An international cruise ships of 2,000 passengers could bring $1.4 million a day in passenger spending. In a year, that would be half a billion dollars.
Royal Caribbean managing director Adam Armstrong, with the biggest fleet in Australia, spelled out the effects of the capacity problems.
The fleet was now at capacity in Sydney. The world’s fourth largest ship, Ovation of the Seas, due in Sydney on December 15, would not be going to Melbourne because it can’t dock.
The brand’s ships are sailing at full capacity. And even though they could take more passengers, there is now no-where left to place the ships.

Mr Odell told a conference this week: “Sydney is our cruise gateway and unless we can accommodate the cruise ships here, we will lose the opportunity for more international ships as well as the prospect of more homeported ships.”

Board member and head of Ponant in Australia Sarina Bratton said CLIA has been in talks with both the state and federal government about moving the Navy from Garden Island.

“Ten years ago, the government wouldn’t even hear of it. But because the cruise industry is making such a great impact on tourism and injecting money into the economy, they are much more welcome to talks,” said Mrs Bratton.

“There is still a long way to go but hopefully we will be able to make some progress to improve the infrastructure so we can see more ships.”