Could Wollongong’s Port Kembla be the overspill port for Sydney Harbour?

With a record five ships sailing in Australian waters for the 2016/2017 season, Royal Caribbean is starting to feel the pinch when it comes to berths in Sydney.

The harbour is chronically overcrowded, with only one ship able to berth at a time at the Overseas Passenger Terminal and White Bay only suitable for smaller ships that can pass under the bridge.

Ovation of the Seas, the largest ship ever to homeport in Sydney, will only be undertaking four journeys in its maiden season due to a lack of available slots in the harbour.

So Port Kembla, around 80 kilometres south of the city, could be the next best thing.

Radiance of the Seas will be calling at Port Kembla for the first time this year, and Royal Caribbean’s regional vice president Gavin Smith said this was “the first step in investigating an ongoing relationship”.

“Including Port Kembla on our itineraries will provide our guests the opportunity to sample all that Wollongong and the South Coast has to offer. At the same time, it will give us the chance to investigate Port Kembla as an alternative home port, as an overflow to congestion in Sydney Harbour,” Smith said.

Royal Caribbean has long been pushing for the industrial port of Botany Bay, just 12 kilometres from the city centre and close to Sydney Airport, to become a second cruise terminal but a source inside NSW Ports told Cruise Passenger this week that that is not a possibility. Port Botany has experienced 3-4% growth in container traffic this year and similar growth is projected, meaning there is not the potential to downsize and accommodate cruise ships, the source said.

In response, Smith said “Royal Caribbean remains interested in expanding our local operations and we continue to seek expansion opportunities in Australia. We are working well with all stakeholders in both the public and private sector to further that endeavour, including relevant parties in both Port Kembla and Port Botany.”

Meanwhile, Carnival continues to champion the inner city port of Garden Island as a second cruise hub. Cruise lines would share the port with the Royal Australian Navy which currently uses the island as a base.

It is the solution that has our vote.