To say the subject of Sydney cruise terminals is overdone is a gross understatement; it feels like we’ve been banging on about this for years.
And now the slightest hint of a development, in the form of last week’s proposal for a terminal at Garden Island by 2022, has set the industry’s tongues wagging.
According to The Australian, one cruise line has opposed the possibility of a Botany Bay terminal, while another major American cruise line has ruled out Garden Island.
Speaking to The Australian, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, said she would consider other ports such as Melbourne, Brisbane and even New Zealand, given the dire capacity crisis Sydney is currently facing.
“The expansion of cruise lines is constrained by our ability to turn our ships in Sydney,” she told The Australian.
“If we wanted to put an additional ship here we would look at New Zealand, Brisbane, Melbourne … every single place would be evaluated.”
The Cruise Reference Group, led by ex politician and Navy veteran, Peter Collins, is pushing a number of possible solutions to host the millions of cruisers sailing into Sydney every year.
In addition to Garden Island, which Collins said was “doable” in the next three to five years, and Botany Bay, the option of double stacking in Sydney Harbour was floated.
Double stacking involves the daily turnaround of two cruise ships at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, but has been totally ruled out by the likes of Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines, per The Oz.
“The ability for Sydney to expand its cruise industry is dependent on additional berths,” Lutoff-Perlo added, claiming this capacity problem at one of Celebrity’s key markets was something she’d not experienced at any other port.
“None of us are interested in double stacking; it’s a terrible experience for crew and guests.”
Meanwhile, CLIA MD Joel Katz was also reported saying that 60 per cent of the 81 cruise ships on order globally would be unable to fit under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, leaving the White Bay terminal in Balmain far from useful.
Katz told Travel Weekly, “Based off current projections, there will be 35 million cruise passengers by 2026 and 40 million by 2030.
“As the majority of new ships under construction will not fit under the Harbour Bridge, the cruise industry is very encouraged by the government’s focus on delivering a solution to accommodate more cruise ships east of the Harbour Bridge.
“CLIA’s recent Economic Impact Report showed that the industry contributes in excess of $5 billion to the Australian economy, and by addressing the capacity constraints in Sydney, we have the opportunity to ensure the industry continues to grow.
“Each cruise ship visit delivers a big economic boost from port charges, to fuel and, most importantly, local supplies like Australian meat, dairy, wine and fresh fruit and vegetables.
“In addition, the visitor economy, including travel agents, hotels, car-hire, and airlines, benefits from the activity of the cruise industry.
“Sydney is Australia’s cruise gateway and ensuring we have the capacity to accommodate more ships, means we will see more international ships bringing international visitors to our shores, as well as the prospect of more homeported ships – which would have a massive flow on effect to businesses and communities far beyond the ships and ports.”
But the Managing Director of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Adam Armstrong, is keen on any option that gets more ships into Sydney.
Earlier this year, it was announced Voyager of the Seas would homeport in Singapore for its next season, due to no berths being available in Sydney.
“Botany is now on the list of options being seriously considered, concurrently with Garden Island,” Armstrong told The Australia.
“Our view is Botany could be a goer.”
Interestingly, Carnival claims to prefer Garden Island, per The Oz. A Carnival Australia spokesperson told Travel Weekly, “We support the NSW Government’s efforts to identify the opportunities, limitations and costs of all infrastructure options to support the ongoing growth of the cruise industry both in the short and long term.
“In our view, it is important to examine all options so there is a clear path for the cruise industry to drive economic benefit for NSW and Australia.”
Additionally, CLIA chairman, Steve Odell, told Travel Weekly that unless Sydney is in the itinerary somewhere, the cruise becomes extremely hard to sell.
Armstrong told The Australian that all options should be considered, however, so as not to waste any more time solving the cruise crisis.
“We are already constrained by Sydney’s lack of berths. For the past decade we have been saying that this day would come. Well, here we are — we have pulled one ship that won’t be coming to Sydney and is going to Asia instead, where there is terminal availability and the cost structure is more favourable,” Armstrong told The Oz.
“Sydney is the most expensive of all our turnaround ports in the world. An IPART report recommended the NSW government reduce the costs of Sydney but the government rejected that earlier this year.”
Per The Australian, Armstrong also rebuffed alternative ports of Port Kembla, Eden and Newcastle.