Amid figures showing cruise contributed over $5 billion to the economy last year, there was one issue which continued to cast a shadow over what should have been a triumphant event –  Sydney’s cruise capacity is now “at a crisis point”.

A report from Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA) revealed that there were a record number of ships making a record number of visits to ports around Australia last year, with states like Tasmania and Western Australia reporting economic benefits growing by over 100 per cent .

But New South Wales and Sydney, the industry’s premier port, grew by only 6 per cent  – a sign that Sydney is now at capacity and is unable to accommodate any more ships.

A presentation by CLIA heard a report compiled by former Liberal leader and Navy reserve officer Peter Collins had been completed and the industry had been consulted for the first time by the NSW State Government. The response is eagerly awaited as the wave season gets under way.

Members of the cruise industry as well as CLIA have formed a working panel with members for the state and federal government to tackle the problem. The group includes the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey.

While the CLIA figures showed that passengers spent on average $527 a day (mainly on food and accommodation) in a port before or after their cruise, Chairman of CLIA Australasia and head of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings in the region,  Steve Odell, said that this figure will not be maintained if there is no solution on the Sydney Harbour issue.

“The Australian cruise industry will continue to grow but we need to infrastructure equation right. However, the substantial decrease in growth in the New South Wales’ economic growth from 20 per cent to 6 per cent is a warning that the infrastructure in the state is at a crisis point. While Australia’s overall economic contribution continues to increase, NSW share has dropped 10 per cent over the last two years.

“As the report shows, it’s crunch time for Sydney. We are already losing out to other ports in Australia. We need an alternative to meet cruise line’s needs and the future demands. Sydney is the cruise gateway and unless we can accommodate more ships, we are going to see less international ship visits as well as the prospect of less homeported ships which as this report shows, will have a massive flow on effect for the rest of the country. So it’s critical that Sydney is equipped.”

Managing Director of CLIA Australasia Joel Katz said, “The industry is now contributing more than $5 billion to Australia’s economy but it could be much more. With the nation’s cruise gateway at crisis point, the challenge is to ensure strong economic growth for years to come and the only way to make that happen is to find a solution to Sydney’s capacity constraints.

“Australia is one of the world’s most appealing cruise destinations for global cruise lines but Sydney is a big drawcard and if Sydney is full, this discourages more cruise ships from heading to our shores.”