The West Australian Government is working towards finding long-term solutions to how best showcase the pristine Kimberley Coast as interest in travelling to the region booms.

WA deputy Premier and Tourism Minister Roger Cook said work was underway to identify how to safeguard the environment now – and in the future.

A summit of 22 cruise line and industry representatives will discuss the issue next month, when it will be raised by local line Coral Expeditions, which has been cruising the Kimberley for years.

Mr Cook’s comments follow Cruise Passenger’s report last week that The Kimberley is in danger of becoming overcrowded as more and more cruise lines announce plans to sail to the region.

The remote Kimberley region, in north-west Western Australia, boasts two World Heritage sites and has been described as a “powder keg waiting to blow’’ by one company who has been operating in the region for the past 28 years.

“The Kimberley is a pristine environment that is often described as one of the world’s last true wilderness areas,’’ Mr Cook said.

“It’s fantastic to see the growing popularity of Kimberley cruising and increased interest from luxurious small expedition vessels to bring new guests and their returning passengers to Western Australia.

“Cruising has a significant positive economic impact on Broome and provides a boost to the wider Kimberley coastal region. With the growth of demand for expedition cruising in the Kimberley, work is already underway to identify and implement long-term solutions to best showcase the Kimberley coastal experience, while safeguarding the pristine marine environment now and into the future.

“Beyond the smaller expedition vessels that commenced cruising earlier in 2022, Western Australia looks forward to welcoming back larger cruise ships from October with the first big ship arriving into Fremantle on October 28.

“Tourism WA will also welcome 22 cruise line and cruise industry representatives to the State for the sixth Western Australian Cruise Exchange from October 5-8.

“Delegates will participate in a range of activities including meetings with WA tourism suppliers and will visit the South West and Broome.”

There is no doubt the over-crowding issue on the Kimberley will be hotly discussed following comments by established operators Coral Expeditions and Ponnat, just two of eight large-scale operators now selling cruises to the region.

But according to Coral Expeditions Commercial Director Jeff Gillies, who will raise the issue at the summit, the problem in much broader than just the arrival of additional larger ships.

“There’s also another layer to the over-crowding challenges in The Kimberley,’’ Mr Gillies said.

The Coral Discoverer in the Kimberley
The Coral Discoverer in the Kimberley

“Two years ago the Federal Government pushed through some overnight legislation giving coastal trading freedom to Super yachts for passengers of 12 and under which has not been in place before.

“Australian flagged operators objected based less on competitive grounds, but on the grounds that these yachts and crews are not adept at operating in challenging remote regions.’’

Mr Gillies said the 11-metre tides that occur in parts of The Kimberley mean that inexperienced seafarers can get stranded in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The Kimberley Coast is home to more than 30 percent of Australia’s islands, and life is dominated by the tides which are the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere. To put it into perspective, the 11-metre difference between high and low tide is about the height of a two-storey house.

“This year alone in the Kimberley we have seen numerous Super yachts anchored up in front of key landscape sights and on two occasions we have been required to rescue them due to their inability to control vessels in the tides,’’ Mr Gillies said.

“Add another 15 white Super yachts to the mix and the wilderness landscape in the Kimberley is further affected.’’

Cruise Broome chair Shayne Murray agreed that training, or some kind of system similar to port pilots, would be a good way to mitigate safety concerns. He also said that’s he hoped a voluntary registry of sailing plans could be established.