Australia’s leading cruise lines have offered expertise and funds in a bid to find a solution to Sydney Harbour’s capacity constraints.
The move comes on the eve of another set of record numbers expected to underscore the country’s incredible love affair with cruise.
According to recent research, 55 per cent of Australians are now considering a cruise – an astonishing jump that would have big implications for our maritime infrastructure.
Royal Caribbean, which has some of the biggest ships in the Aussie fleet, has revealed it offered expertise in a meeting between its global president, Adam Goldstein, and the NSW Ports Minister Melinda Pavey.
The line has a resident ports expert in Southeast Asia who is a world authority on cruise infrastructure. And Royal Caribbean has given countries like Vietnam large funds to seed the building of new ports.
Next week, new cruise figures will be released by Cruise Lines International Association Australasia – significantly, the announcement is to be made at the NSW Parliament building.
Last week also saw Carnival executive Chair Ann Sherry tell a trade publication the world’s largest cruise company is now basing ships in cities such as Melbourne and Brisbane.
She described Sydney Harbour as “the last big piece of the tourism puzzle now we have agreement on the second airport and have rebuilt the convention and exhibition centre.”
Royal Caribbean’s global president Adam Goldstein expressed frustration in an interview with Cruise Passenger that the industry’s expertise was not being used by those trying to find a solution to the Sydney Habour capacity issue.
This week, in response to Cruise Passenger questions, Adam Armstrong, Managing Director, RCL Cruises Australia and New Zealand, maintained: “As Adam Goldstein said to Minister Pavey and the Premier’s office, RCCL is experienced in developing terminal and berthing infrastructure all over the world.
“It does this in partnership with governments and the private sector, including other cruise lines and where appropriate will take on the role itself.
“We are keen to work with the NSW Government to find a solution to Sydney’s big ship berthing capacity bottleneck. This needs to be done as soon as possible.”
And on funding issues, he said: “We have certainly made it clear to the New South Wales Government that we don’t expect the Government to fund a new terminal.
“We remain open to all development models including participating in the right model ourselves.”
Minister Pavey told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper this week she believed the solution was to persuade the navy to allow use of Garden Island.
This would bring her into direct conflict with the Defence Department and Defence Minister Christopher Pyne, who maintains Garden Island should be for the exclusive use of the Royal Australian Navy.
Meanwhile NSW Ports idea of “double stacking” at the Overseas Passenger Terminal – putting two ships a day through the iconic wharf between the bridge and the opera house – continued to draw flak.
Tourism & Transport Forum’s CEO Margy Osmond said: “If Sydney is not available as a destination for large cruise liners, the whole country will miss out. We are now on the verge of a cruise crisis.”
Australia’s major cruise lines have said they won’t take up the option because of the damage to the Sydney cruise experience, and they were joined last week by Norwegian Cruise Lines, one of the world’s biggest and shortly to base a ship in the city.
Mr Steve Odell, senior vice president and managing director, Asia Pacific, said: “Resolving the lack of berthing space in Sydney Harbour is an absolute priority to help grow and future proof cruise tourism in Australia.
“Double stacking has been mooted as an option, however the operational challenges associated with the technique, as well as the likely impacts on the guest experience in relation to embark and debark delays make it an unviable long term solution moving forward.”