A $20 million major makeover of the Port of Cairns will allow the heritage port to welcome bigger cruise ships from April 2020 onwards.

At the Port of Cairns, the wharves are being upgraded with mooring and berthing dolphins and the shipping channel is also getting widened and deepened.

When complete, two ships of up to 300 metres in length will be able to dock at the new port at the same time. This means that even ships carrying more than 3,000 passengers will be able to pull up in the Port of Cairns.

According to a statement from Ports North, the wharf upgrade project is “running to schedule and is expected to be completed by the beginning of April”. But half the wharf is set to be ready to welcome its first larger ship on March 24, the 3,605-guest MSC Magnifica.

In July, the latest Carnival Australia ship, 3,700-guest Carnival Splendor will also make her maiden call in Cairns.

“Already we are seeing results with more than 10 larger cruise vessels that have not been able to enter the Port of Cairns previously, scheduled to visit the Port of Cairns during 2020,” says a Ports North spokesman.

The new port has also attracted many other ships to make their maiden call in 2020, including the Princess Cruises Golden Princess and Sapphire Princess, Royal Caribbean’s new Australian ship Serenade of the Seas as well as P&O’s newest ship cruising out of Sydney, the Pacific Adventure.

In 2021, P&O’s latest addition to their fleet, the 3,000-guest Pacific Encounter homeported out of Brisbane will also call in Cairns along with Carnival Splendor and 3,605-guest MSC Poesia.

And that’s just a start. Ports North are expecting more ships to call in Cairns in 2021.

“The 2021 schedule are created at least two years in advance and are fluid, as has been shown by the changes to the 2020 schedule. As the Project completion date draws closer and cruise companies review their itineraries and fleet size, this is expected to change,” says a Ports North spokesman.

Cairns tourism is looking forward to a boost

The upgraded Port of Cairns marks a major milestone for the third and final stage of the Palaszczuk Government’s $127 million Cairns Shipping Development Project.

“This is the final step and a major undertaking to ensure the Port of Cairns is ready to welcome thousands of visitors to our region,” says Minister for Transport Mark Bailey.

“A deeper channel means more opportunities and more jobs for Cairns. The Palaszczuk Government wants more visitors and more tourism for Cairns. This project is about unlocking a new cruise ship industry for our city and 2,700 local jobs by 2031,” says Member for Cairns Michael Healy.

“More people visiting Cairns means more money in the local economy, money is spent in local coffee shops and restaurants, retail purchases, taxi fares and shore excursions.”

Mr Healy also shared that the Economic Impact Assessment of Cruise Tourism in Australia 2017-18 released by the Cruise Lines International Association Australasia and the Australian Cruise Association estimated the cruise industry bought $152.2 million into Cairns and the upgraded port will build on this success.

Ports North managed to retain majority of the existing heritage wharves built more than hundred years ago by installing a series of independent dolphin structures inset into the existing heritage-listed wharves.

A new concrete jetty will also be constructed along the front of wharf 6 to replace the decayed timber wharf structure with a portion of the old structure to be revealed and retained for heritage and interpretive purposes.