Australian cruisers are losing ships to the Asian market, according to cruise line bosses, who say docking in Sydney is too expensive.
During the 2012/13-cruise season Sydney welcomed 240 ships. This number is expected to grow this year to 259.
Although growth is consistent, cruise lines say Australian cruisers could have more ships at their doorsteps if port fees weren’t so high.
“There’s a price to pay for coming to this beautiful city,” Silversea UK, Europe and Asia Pacific senior vice president Steve Odell told Cruise Passenger during a recent visit to Australia.
This year, the luxury line has forfeited its regular trans-Tasman sailings because Mr Odell says it’s more financially viable to operate cruises out of destinations like Indonesia and Myanmar.
“There’s the economics of running a cruise line and a program and we feel that over the next two years we will make more money by operating from Asia not Australia,” he explained.
As a result, the line has added new Asia itineraries in Indonesia and Myanmar and will only make three visits to Australia this wave season. They include Silver Whisper’s Sydney to Indonesia and Silver Spirit’s sailings from Auckland to Melbourne and Melbourne to Fiji.
“We can satisfy the local market by operating a couple of cruises from Australia but we can’t sustain a full season.”
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean regional vice president Gavin Smith says demand is exceeding supply in Sydney, which is also forcing cruise lines to send their ships elsewhere, The Australian reported.
“Our view is Sydney is full,” he said.
Mr Gavin said that due to a lack of berthing availability, Royal Caribbean will not bring additional ships to the city. Instead the company has opted to substitute vessels with new ships to maintain its presence.
For example, during the 2015/16-wave season, the line will withdraw the popular Rhapsody of the Seas from Australia, replacing her with a second Voyager-class vessel, Explorer of the Seas.
Explorer will carry over 1,000 more passengers than Rhapsody, allowing the line to increase its numbers down under without introducing additional vessels.
Mr Gavin and his Carnival Australia counterpart, Ann Sherry have called for an additional berth at Port Botany or Garden Island.
“No matter how much money the government spends on Circular Quay there is still only one berth,” Mr Smith said earlier this year.
“The industry is still working on Garden Island and Port Botany as potential further expansion of cruise industry facilities.”
“As the ships that can access White Bay are modernised they will not be able to fit under the bridge and Sydney will require a second terminal accessible by all ships.”
Ms Sherry added: “It is certainly a step forward to accommodate increasingly larger cruise ships at Circular Quay however the redevelopment of the terminal does not in itself increase Sydney’s capacity.”
“Carnival Australia has long advocated shared access at Garden Island and has worked hard to build a positive and cooperative relationship with the Royal Australian navy.”