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The State Government has been forced to give up on its plans to increase Sydney’s capacity using Garden Island, but its Cruise Development Plan makes clear it has big ambitions for other ports.

While it investigates Port Botany as Sydney’s second terminal, the government is scoping the potential to improve cruise facilities like expanding terminals, adding parking lot and immigration infrastructure to encourage more cruise ships to visit regional areas.

The move would make tiny Eden (population: 3,151), the first port of call for ships sailing from New Zealand.

This will take the heat of Sydney’s lack of capacity and cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, Cunard, Oceania Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line and P&O have started exploring the option of calling at ports like Eden, Newcastle as well as Port Kembla.

Historically, Royal Caribbean was the first line to send one of its iconic ships, Voyager of the Seas to Wollongong in 2016.

Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth visited Newcastle in 2016 – the first Cunard ship to visit the port since 1907.

And now, Eden is fast becoming a popular stop on cruise line itineraries for Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Norwegian Cruise Line, especially over the next 12 months.

The government has already invested in a $44 million extension of the existing Breakwater Wharf which will enable larger cruise ships to berth and it’s expected to open in 2019.

The report says that once its complete, Eden has the potential to become a hybrid port used for both cruise transit calls and as a potential transit port with immigration processing facilities for ships entering Australian waters from New Zealand.

Managing Director for CLIA Australiasia & Asia, Joel Katz said that the organisation would be welcome to the idea of utilising regional ports.

“As an industry we support the Cruise Development Plan action to grow emerging destinations, through education and training, and building their capability to cater to cruise passengers on transit calls. The Port of Eden, as an example, is already being used for transit calls.

“But developing their capacity to handle more ship calls, and potentially even clear ships into or out of Australia, would increase the number of cruise visitors. This would have a positive flow-on effect on local tour operators, shops, and restaurants”.

The government is also investigating a potential port at Coffs Harbour with other potential ports like Yamba, Port Stephens, Port Macquarie and South West Rocks.