The burgeoning local cruise industry signalled an increased attack on state and federal governments who fail to tackle the chronic issue of port facilities for its growing armada of mega liners.
A new report from representative body Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) maintain the industry’s economic worth has increased one billion dollars in a year, up 27 per cent to $4.6 billion.
The money is made up of direct contributions from cruise lines for port facilities of $1.3 billion, spending by passengers and crew of $1 billion and indirect spending on food and other suppliers of $2.3 billion.
Some 18,000 jobs – an increase of 23 per cent – are linked to the success of cruising.
But CLIA’s chairman Steve Odell, who also heads up Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, said international visitation had 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 now full.
And while Sydney Port is trialling double berthing – turning around two big ships a 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. And 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.
So 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 November 15, would not be going to Melbourne or Brisbane because it can’t dock.
The brand’s ships are sailing at full capacity. And even though they could take many more passengers, there is now no-where left to place the ships.