The Defence Ministry has torpedoed attempts to increase the number of cruise ships sharing the strategic Garden Island facility on Sydney Harbour.
Cruise industry bosses, including Carnival Australia’s Chair Ann Sherry, have been lobbing hard for more space at the base.
But today, the Defence Ministry firmly slammed the door.
Trade magazines recently claimed Garden Island was still in play, quoting Federal Minister Keith Pitt as suggesting it was “still on the agenda”.
Ms Sherry entertained the head of the naval fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, aboard the Queen Mary 2 last month, and suggested a refurbishment of Garden Island was an opportunity to expand its role to help the burgeoning cruise industry.
Most modern mega liners can’t go under the bridge and the Overseas Passenger Terminal is already at capacity during the busy wave season, so more space east of the historic monument is vital.
There are 74 ships currently under construction around the world at a cost of US$51 billion –45 are contemporary cruising and 6 mega ships unlikely to fit under the bridge.
Today a Defence spokesperson, answering questions from Cruise Passenger magazine, said the key naval base is not an option for the cruise industry.
“Navy’s Fleet Base East, Garden Island, is home to over 60 percent of Australia’s surface fleet and has been so for over 100 years. It remains a crucial Defence base and an extremely busy working facility,” the spokesperson said.
“Availability of Garden Island berths for cruise ship access is very limited and this will be further exacerbated when significant remediation works occur at Garden Island in coming years to keep pace with the introduction of new capabilities for the Navy. Some of these works will impact on berth availability during the construction period.
“Defence will continue to offer up to three cruise ship visits to Garden Island each season, subject to operational, support and security requirements which may necessarily change at short notice.
“Varying naval ship operational and maintenance demands, wharf repair and security constraints will continue to limit Defence’s ability to agree berth availability 18-24 months in advance, as sought by the cruise industry.
“Measures to ensure the rapidly growing cruise industry continues to benefit Sydney are primarily a matter for the NSW Government to consider.”