Cruise Passenger’s revelations about how over-regulation and high charges are forcing cruise lines to desert Australia have sparked calls for a new cruise policy.

Cruise Lines International Association Australasia is planning to work to create a more “welcoming” policy toward international cruise lines.

At the same time, Business Sydney is putting together plans for a special summit to identify challenges. Business Sydney Executive Director Paul Nicolaou told Cruise Passenger today: “Business Sydney is perfectly placed to call a special summit to identify the issues that could affect cruising’s prospects in Australia.  We have members that are directly involved in allowing the Australian cruise industry to continue to be a world leader. 

“As an industry and key part of the visitor economy, cruising is of vital importance to Sydney generating billions of dollars in economic activity. A previous Business Sydney hosted summit was instrumental in cruising’s return following the pandemic.” 

CLIA Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz told Cruise Passenger’s podcast Onboard that he will be pursuing meetings on cruise regulation and infrastructure, looking to bring together the state and federal governments to iron out issues regarding cruising in Australia.

Cruise Passenger’s video on the cruising crisis – watch it now

Cruise Passenger exclusively reported that the major cruise lines are cutting cruise capacity by up to 30% over the next two years, a move that jeopardies not just thousands of peoples vacations, but hundreds of jobs and $5 billion in economic benefit for the country.

Kevin Hogan, the Federal Shadow Minister for Tourism, has thrown his weight behind the cruise industry’s campaign for regulatory relief, pledging to question Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in parliament next week.

One of the industry’s concerns is that the Coastal Trading Act is up for renewal and the cruise industry’s exemption can’t be guaranteed.

Mr Hogan said he would bring the matter up in Parliament and target Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who was infrastructure minister and perpetually renewed the cruise ship exemption.

Calling the current situation “crazy”, he said: “This is a job creating industry and is creating wealth for our economy.”

Mr Hogan pointed out that Anthony Albanese used be in charge of the infrastructure ministry when it offered cruise ships an exemption to the Coastal Trading Act 2012. This is an act that allows foreign-flagged cruise ships to carry passengers between Australian ports without further registrations and regulatory costs.

In 2018 the exemption was extended for five years, however, last year it received only a one-year extension and a decision is yet to be made this year. This casts doubt over international cruise lines operations in Australia and has stopped them allocating further resources to the region.

Meanwhile, concern is growing that the cruie capacity cuts will lead to job losses. Cruise contributes 18,225 full time equivalent positions nationally, with total income of A$1.82 billion, according to CLIA figures.

Kelly Henderson, a leading industry cruise travel agent and CLIA Cruise Ambassador told Cruise Passenger:n”It’s a lose lose situation for everyone involved who benefits from the ships coming into their ports. 

“The farmers who provide the produce, the small local tour operators who supply the bus trips or the walking tours, the local businesses who have walk in business. No one wins if we don’t have ships.”

“I am already concerned for the future of cruise in Australia” – an agent perspective.

Cruise summit

Henderson says she’s extremely worried for the future of cruise in Australia, with the industry now feelings the effects of a lack of investment in infrastructure and the industry.

“I am already concerned for the future of Cruising from Australia.  We only ever have the same ships, same destinations, same amount of nights.  There is no Private Island we were promised, No extra cruise port we were told about (Botany Bay or Kurnell), No big fun ships that were flashed infront of our eyes, no variations of locations to visit and the pricing is increasing per person before our eyes.  

“With cruise passengers being decreased by the proposed 30% , the price is going to be unaffordable for many families and couples.  This means thousands of agents, like myself who have poured everything into their business will suffer, the suppliers will suffer, the destinations will suffer in terms of less money and supplies coming into them, the passenger themselves will suffer with lack of options.”

Ms Henderson says the demand is there, it’s up to the government to work with the cruise lines and make Australia a more viable option for big ships and major cruise companies.

“Our Cruise seasons are selling out earlier than ever with less being available as “Last Minute” or “Pack and Go” type fares.  This alone should show the government and cruise lines that Australia is a great option! Australians love to cruise.  Its fun, easy and currently affordable.  Why not nourish that and give us more options so everyone wins?”

Port charges set to keep rising

Cruise Passenger recently covered how Australia’s port charges are generally extremely higher than other leading ports around the world. Given that Australia’s geography already makes it an expensive place to sail, these port charges are only making it more difficult for cruise lines to run profitable operations in Australia.

Port charges would form part of a cruise summit.

The Cruise Passenger investigation showed that the price to dock Quantum of the Seas in Sydney reaches $219,351.6 off port charges alone, compared to $22,808 in Barcelona or $93,685 in Miami.

However, it has been revealed that port charges are about to rise even more.

A report from cruise reviewer and research Adrian Tassone found that come July 1st, Sydney port charges will rise for $44.72 to $46.60. In the example of Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, this would add around another $10,000 per docking.

Amongst regulatory difficulties, supplier and fuel costs, lack of government prioritisation and more, port charges add to the complicated web of issues in the cruising ecosystem that are leading to an exodus of major ships and cruise lines from Australia.