Aspirations to have a third cruise terminal capable of accommodating “Mega Cruise Ships” in Sydney Harbour have been scuttled by the NSW Government which has outlined its preference for a location at Port Botany used by container ships, at least as a short-term fix to prevent cruise lines going interstate.
The NSW Government released its long-awaited Cruise Development Plan (CDP) earlier today, which has ruled out a possible facility at Garden Island in Sydney Habour. Garden Island was viewed as the cruise industries most favoured alternate site, due to its close proximity to the city, and of course the ‘wow factor’ of overlooking the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge for cruise passengers.
“The Commonwealth Government has advised that shared use of Garden Island is not feasible. This is due to the significant challenges in managing berth space and infrastructure alongside expanding Navy operations.
“The NSW Government recognises the strategic and economic importance of Garden Island as an operational base for the Royal Australian Navy, as well as its historical and cultural value for the defence industry and community. Therefore, no sites at Garden Island will be included in the strategic business case,” the report said.
The CDP acknowledged that Large and Mega Cruise Ship operators whose vessels are already too big to be accommodated at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) due to their width, and are too large to fit beneath the Harbour Bridge, “will decrease visitation to the city in favour of other fit-for purpose ports such as Brisbane and Melbourne.”
“To meet increased visitation… an interim solution is required to meet peak season demand until a long-term solution is determined and implemented,” the NSW Government said.
The organisation, led by the Hon Peter Collins AM QC, and conscious that cruise companies are already looking at other options beside Sydney, understands that “the time taken to conduct feasibility studies and any subsequent construction of a third terminal in Sydney may result in lost opportunities to the economy, particularly during the peak season.”
The Reference Group had assessed 14 possible locations for a third cruise terminal in Sydney, trimming the list to seven. With other sites such as Athol Bay and Rose Bay within Sydney Harbour now also scratched off the list due to “projected costs, engineering, traffic and other issues”, the Government turned its attention to Hayes Dock in Port Botany as a band-aid solution while a long-term cruise strategy is evaluated.
Hayes Dock is a container wharf that is positioned parallel to the third runway of Sydney Airport – about 15 kilometres south of the Sydney Opera House, instead of a 15-minute walk from the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay. There are two sites at Hayes Dock which may be viable sites: Molineaux Point and Yarra Bay.
According to the CDP, the advantage of Hayes Dock is it has “the most eastern berth… offers an existing deepwater berth and a wharf that may be suitable for conversion into a temporary cruise ship berth to accommodate the largest Mega Cruise Ships expected to visit Sydney.” The precinct at Hayes Dock would require a temporary shelter facility on the wharf and a cruise terminal in a nearby suburb.
“However, a number of potential issues would need to be further investigated,” CDP said, adding that talks will need to be held with NSW Ports who currently holds a long-term lease with Hutchison Ports.
In addition to the third cruise terminal, the NSW Government said it would “investigate opportunities to remove regulatory barriers to entry for emerging cruise markets, including the expedition cruise market, and will seek an inter-jurisdictional policy position with other governments.” The topic was recently raised by CLIA Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz to LATTE.
“The NSW coast has a number of smaller destinations that may attract visits from the growing expedition, luxury and specialty cruise markets. However, growth in this market is currently being restrained by lack of infrastructure as well as operational and regulatory barriers,” the CDP said.
“The NSW Government has announced an investigation of opportunities at Coffs Harbour with other potential ports including Yamba, Port Stephens, Port Macquarie and South West Rocks. Throughout the investigation, the NSW Government will liaise with industry, local councils, community groups and business owners to explore opportunities and receive feedback at each potential destination.”
ELSEWHERE, the government said it would support the growth of the cruise industry in “key NSW regions and potential emerging destinations,” and will build the “profile and appeal of NSW as a leading cruise destination” by reviewing funding options for cooperative marketing funds.
The Cruise Development Report also said White Bay Cruise Terminal would continue to draw the “luxury and expedition cruise markets. These cruises have fleets of Small Cruise Ships carrying less than 1,000 passengers that are able to pass under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. ”
The report also indicated that to free up access to the OPT, cruise ships that are able to fit under the Harbour Bridge may be required to dock at White Bay as the “primary berth”, with “the OPT only being used for smaller ships outside of peak and shoulder periods.”