The Port Authority of NSW has suspended all overnight cruise ship visits to White Bay Cruise Terminal in Sydney Harbour, while the Environmental Protection Authority works on new pollution control regulations.
The move comes after a concerted campaign by the local community, who claimed their health was suffering because of high-sulphur fuel emissions and noise from generators running throughout the night.
The residents, led by Leichhardt Council, urged the State Government to “put the community’s health first”.
The ban is expected to remain in place until the EPA has an agreed position with cruise lines, which could be as far away as July 2016.
Ships will still be able to disembark passengers at the terminal, but will have to turn around in a day.
No-one was saying what would happen to ships that needed to overnight in Sydney during the wave season, beginning in September, when the harbour’s Overseas Passenger Terminal is often full.
Carnival and Royal Caribbean dominate the OPT throughout the season.
Ships can moor in the harbour – but it involves a complicated and expensive tender arrangement so passengers can get ashore when they want.
At the heart of the dispute is the government’s failure to put shore power into the $55 million White Bay facility, meaning ships burn low-grade fuel all night to maintain electricity.
Lowering emissions helps – but won’t remove the cause of the residents’ anger altogether.
Cruise lines like Carnival have long sought to have their ships moored at Garden Island, currently occupied by the navy. Royal Caribbean favours a facility at Port Botany, which is further from the city centre.
Brendan Elliott of the Port Authority of NSW told Cruise Passenger: “We are committed to making alternative arrangements for all other ships, which may be directed to one of our other moorings in Sydney.”