Australia’s regional ports are booming as state governments partner with cruise lines to create new destinations where ships can dock and land their passengers, said the president of our biggest operator, Carnival Australia and chair of the Cruise Lines International Association.
But while Sture Myrmell supports the NSW Government’s cruise development plan and its attempts to explore alternatives to Garden Island, he is still to be convinced Port Botany will be the eventual winner.
“The fact that the NSW government has released their cruise plan is a step forward and it lays a path to a solution to the congestion in Sydney,” Mr Myrmell told Cruise Passenger.
“We’re very supportive of the process and looking forward to having a solution. I think it’s too early to say. In theory, could it be Port Botany? Absolutely. Could it be somewhere else? Yes, it could. The real work hasn’t been done yet.”
Mr Myrmell revealed ports in Western Australia, Queensland and elsewhere were about to reap the benefits of investment, spreading the more than $5 billion spending by cruise lines and their passengers around the country each year.
“In the past there might have been a focus on capital cities, but now regional Australia is realising the positive impact it can have on their economies. And the ports are starting to work with tourism bodies and vendors and shore excursions providers are starting to realise that if we can work together, we can move this industry forward.
“If we don’t, it only takes one to scupper the whole plan.
“Broome is a great example. A couple of years ago we had to pull out of WA. We spoke frankly to the government. They committed to dredging and improving the access to Broome. The ports have been working hard on getting gangways that are suitable for ships. It’s the tidal ways area that are the challenge.
“The tourism minister is incredibly supportive, and when you get all these components coming together you get a turnaround, and Broome is going to be the marque port in Western Australia.
“As a direct effect of that, Princess have now decided to deploy ships in WA and they are going to be homeporting in WA in November and December of this year from Fremantle. And that lays the foundation for further growth in WA.”
There is, he said, a similar story in Queensland.
“The new terminal in Brisbane that is coming in 2020 and is going to be a game changer. Not just for Brisbane, but for cruise tourism in Queensland as a whole. Dredging the channel in Cairns is going to allow bigger ships to come right into the heart of the city.
“We’ve been homeporting over the last three years. We are shifting ships around and we are not going back next year, but it’s a market that has worked well for us and its proximity to Papua New Guinea means it opens up opportunities in terms of itinerary planning and it has a lot going for it.
“When the bigger ships can get in, it opens it up not just as a destination but also as a homeport. How many brands are going to be homeported there, I don’t know, but we have more overnights in Cairns for P&O and Princess already.
“And other brands will follow suit once they realise they can get in.”
Mr Myrmell was speaking aboard Majestic Princess, the newest and biggest of the line’s vessels to be homeported in Australia.
“It’s the line’s flagship,” he said. “It speaks volumes about the confidence we have in the Australian market and its continued growth that she is here today.”