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The debate over a second berth for big cruise ships east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was re-ignited today at a conference held by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia.

Last week, Cruise Passenger reported the port was planning double-berthing, with two ships a day using the Overseas Passenger Terminal, because of the need to service more ships.

But today, leaders of the industry which contributes millions of dollars to the NSW economy claimed the growing number of vessels coming into the country’s premier port could slow if a second berth cannot be found soon.

And that could endanger Chinese tourism growth and their target of two million cruise passengers by 2020.

In front of NSW Government minister Jonathan O’Dea, whose portfolio includes tourism, CLIA’s global CEO Cindy D’Aoust and Australasia president Steve Odell warned Australia’s astonishing record as the world’s fourth biggest cruise nation could be in peril.

The NSW Government has been delaying a choice between pressing the Defence Department to give room at the Garden Island wharves or producing a new facility at Botany.

The industry has responded by sending bigger ships. Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, the world’s fourth biggest and over 4,000 passengers, arrived in November for a season.

But speaker after speaker said it wasn’t enough, and when MC Ross Greenwood called on Mr O’Dea to take an urgent message back to the NSW Government, the 450-strong audience applauded loudly.

Mr O’Dea said such a decision would take time.

Mr D’Aoust, on her first visit to Sydney from America, applauded the Australian cruise industry for its amazing growth and promised help from the global cruise community to keep up the momentum.

Cruise passengers spend $384 a day, and $700 for international visitors, so the effect in jobs and income on the Australian economy was very important.