Princess and Cunard will stop port calls to Melbourne in protest of an “unreasonable” hike in charges.

The port charge price rise – from $28.50 per passenger to $32 per passenger – is expected to take effect from January 1 with the cruise lines announcing they will stop calls to Melbourne from 2025 onwards.

“Our economic benefit to Victoria is immense and we appreciate the importance of maintaining our ports but to be expected to carry a 15 per cent increase with no notice is unreasonable,” said Teresa Lloyd, Carnival Corporation’s chief strategy officer.

“We want to be in Melbourne and remain open to finding a long-term solution together with Ports Victoria and the Victorian Government.”

She also said the decision was not made lightly.

“We love Melbourne and so do our local, interstate, and international guests. The cultural capital of Australia is the gateway into southern Australia but also a much-loved destination for millions of tourists,” Ms Lloyd.

“However, the decision to homeport these popular cruise lines in other markets is in no small part due to the recent decision made by Ports Victoria to significantly and unexpectedly increase fees and charges.

“We understand these fees will be ongoing and will largely go towards the ongoing costs of maintaining Station Pier.”

Lloyd said the cruise industry in 2022/23 contributed $379.5 million to the state’s economy. This windfall directly supports producers, suppliers, the hospitality industry and jobs.

Tourism & Transport Forum Australia chief executive Margy Osmond told Nine News said it was “deeply disappointing” that Princess and Cunard would no longer sail from Melbourne.

“The loss of Princess Cruises and Cunard from Victoria’s cruise sector is a major blow to the state’s tourism industry. These brands have been instrumental in attracting visitors and generating economic benefits for the state,” she said.

“We must address cruise ship operators concerns and ensure they have the support needed to prevent further erosion of the cruise industry.”

She also called for urgent collaboration between the state government and cruise companies to secure the future of cruising in Victoria.

Ports and Freights Minister Melissa Horne downplayed the significance of the exit.

Ms Horne said the rise pf 15% would ensure the future of Station Pier.

“I think we need a bit of perspective here — It’s $28.50 per passenger to $32 per passenger, it’s a pretty modest increase,” she said.