Royal Caribbean and Carnival Australia have welcomed the long term plan of Kevin Rudd to relocate the navy from Sydney in a move that could pave the way for a cruise terminal at Garden Island.
But the proposal, announced this morning, would not happen until at least 2030 and is dependent on Rudd being re-elected prime minister.
Rudd said he will set up a taskforce to explore the issue and flagged the cruise industry as one of the possible beneficiaries of the move.
The navy and NSW premier Barry O'Farrell reacted with anger, arguing the navy is a vital cog in Sydney's economy.
Royal Caribbean Australia managing director Gavin Smith said: “We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement about the commencement of planning for relocation of some or all of the Navy’s operations at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour.
“Any future utilisation of part of Garden Island for a dedicated cruise terminal would greatly assist the economy and the tourism industry.
“RCCL have long argued that in order to attract more cruise ships to the Australian tourism industry, and to capitalise on the benefits the cruise industry brings to the local economy and tourism, Sydney needs another dedicated cruise berth east of the Harbour Bridge.”
Smith added it was imperative that Sydney responds to the competition of Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai which all have new dedicated cruise terminals.
In a statement, Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry said: "We have long believed that the long-term use of Garden Island was the only viable option to support cruise industry growth, which has seen the industry generate more than a billion dollars a year in value-added economic contribution.”
The Tourism and Transport Form (TTF) said cruise ships need greater access to Garden Island irrespective of whether the navy relocates.
“Regardless of whether the RAN stays or moves some of its operations elsewhere, it’s about sharing this important facility,” TTF chief executive Ken Morrison said. “There is room for both the navy and cruise ships at Garden Island. It’s also important that dry dock and maintenance facilities remain at the site.
“As ships get bigger, the demand for berths east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge has continued to grow. The Overseas Passenger Terminal is in almost constant use during the summer cruise ship season and a third of cruise ships cannot fit under the Harbour Bridge, with that figure to rise to 56% by 2020.
“While a few cruise ships have been able to access Garden Island on an ad hoc basis, the industry would prefer greater certainty. Ship schedules are locked in years in advance and cruise operators need confidence to invest long-term and encourage more international cruise visitors, and the thousands of passengers they carry, to visit Australia.”