A permanent pontoon next to Taronga Zoo could be used to berth cruise liners – with ferries and water taxis taking hundreds of passengers ashore.
The idea is just one of a number of schemes under consideration to ease the the shortage of berthing facilities for cruise ships in Sydney Harbour – the nation’s premier draw card for cruise.
The Port Authority of NSW and the cruise industry have been discussing this “innovative’’ idea as a long-term solution in the face of the growing congestion of cruise ships on Sydney Harbour, Gavin Smith, boss of the Royal Caribbean Cruises revealed to Cruise Passenger.
In truth, however, it is neither innovative nor a good long-term solution.
Local and foreign passengers will be clambering down the steps of their gang planks after queuing for hours – within sight of the most obvious cruise terminal, currently occupied by the rusting, grey-painted warships of the Australian Navy.
And nothing, it seems, is going to shift them. Not even a Premier at the peak of his popularity and seemingly willing to make the big changes.
Mr Smith said the industry was still hampered by Sydney’s lack of port facilities.
“Sydney Ports are certainly increasing the tempo of discussions about assisting with a longer term solution, but in the absence of a decision about Garden Island, we will be berthing outside Sydney Harbour,’’ Mr Smith told The Australian newspaper this week.
The week also saw the launch of the wave season, which will be the biggest ever. A total of 38 ships will visit Australia during the summer months, up from 36 last year, including eight making their maiden voyages.
If anyone still needs convincing of how important the industry is to our country’s economy, they only have to look at Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA) report presented last year.
Direct expenditure by cruise lines and their passengers and crew totalled $1.72 billion in 2013, with passengers spending $724 million, crew $29.6 million and cruise lines a further $963 million. Domestic cruise passengers spent the most, accounting for 77 per cent ($559 million).
And there could be more. Carnival Australia’s CEO Ann Sherry revealed more passengers than the population of Tasmania and a quarter of Carnival’s international fleet will be in Australian waters this cruise season. Twenty-two ships from its seven cruise lines will be sailing in local waters, making more than 170 calls to Sydney alone.
They will make 538 calls to Australian ports through to the end of April 2016 – 21 per cent more than in 2014-15. And the line and their passengers will add an estimated $4 billion to the local economy.
Ms Sherry, a great advocate of the industry, recalled that in 2005-2006, 10 ships from across our fleets sailed locally and made 141 calls to Australian ports.
Ten years on the number of ships has more than doubled and the number of local calls has more than tripled.
Great for our economy and excellent that the spending is spreading to smaller, regional ports like Newcastle and Wollongong.
But what’s not so great is that our premier cruise location continues to be hampered by the State and Federal Government’s inability to put an important international growth industry above the interests of the armed forces.
No one is saying the Navy isn’t important. It’s just that they can be just as effective outside Sydney’s pristine waters.