Cruise ships at risk of leaving WA

An industry insider warns WA could be at risk of losing cruise ships altogether if the government do not act to fix the Broome port.
An industry insider warns WA could be at risk of losing cruise ships altogether if the government do not act to fix the Broome port.

Tourist destinations such as Busselton risk losing visitors through cruise ships if more investment isn’t put into selected ports according Master mariner Craig Brent-White.

Mr Brent-White has piloted every cruise ship which has sailed down WA’s coastline for the past 11 years and said Broome’s port needed to be upgraded in order for the whole state to benefit from the industry.

He said the state government were spending money in the wrong place and that WA was going the wrong way.

“The cruise ships will only come back if what is broken is fixed, and they are hearing the wrong noise. The draw card for cruise ships is the Kimberley, Busselton is a relative that will suffer,” he said.

“The Labor Party mean well but they have been fed a diddy, there is a crisis of funds and here they are talking about spending in the wrong way.

​”Nothing has been done in Broome for more than 30 years, end game it is too expensive - guess what – it is too expensive.

“They have the wrong answer. We have been waiting a long time, it is frustrating, their agenda is mucked up with misinformation.”

Mr Brent-White said investing in Bunbury was a bad idea because cruise ship passengers wanted easy access to the Margaret River region which Busselton offers.

“Bunbury is dead, they have lost the plot, they will never get back in,” he said.

“Busselton is easily accessible to the Margaret River region which is where passengers want to go.”

Shadow Minister for Tourism Libby Mettam said nearly 27,000 passengers visited Busselton each year and that the cruise sector directly contributed $275 million to the WA economy in 2015-2016.

Ms Mettam said while one of the biggest issues facing cruise companies across Australia was the lack of prime dock space that was not the case in WA.

“The issue that is of concern to cruise ship operators is access; more specifically reliable access to safe and “all-weather” berths,” she said.

“Recently, The West headlined that cruise ships were refusing to dock at the “unattractive” Fremantle Port, however this is not the case.

“P & O Cruises, which is one part of the larger Carnival brand, withdrew from Fremantle Port following from concerns over the lack of reliable infrastructure at Exmouth and Broome, which are WA’s premier winter cruise ship destinations.”

Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti said all of WA needs to work together to improve facilities and attract more cruise ships. 

Ms Saffioti said she was working with the Minister for Tourism Paul Papalia from a state government perspective to create more opportunities in this space.

She said long-term planning for an Outer Harbour upgrade in Bunbury was a McGowan Government election commitment. 

“Southern Ports - Bunbury continues to work with stakeholders to attract cruise ships to the region,” she said.

“Kimberley Ports Authority is reviewing the current cruise vessel impediments in the Port of Broome. They are actively investigating an all-tide gangway system, the viability of a floating pontoon and a feasibility study on the widening and deepening of Port of Broome's channel.”

​Ms Mettam said the loss of P&O Cruises meant a drop in the number of planned cruises in WA from around 60 to as low as 17, worth an estimated $130 million to the economy. 

She said for Busselton, this decision saw the cancellation of the Sun Princess’ scheduled trip, which would have generated around $2.1 million to the local economy.