By Ian Neubauer
Sydney Ports has deflected claims it was at fault after an international cruise ship berthed at a car park last month, saying the operator Carnival Australia had pre-sold tickets prior to securing berthing at a passenger port and is directly responsible for any inconvenience caused to its passengers.
Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry was up in arms last week after the Dawn Princess was forced to birth at White Bay, a commercial port bracing a large car park under the Anzac Bridge.
“You cannot bring passengers, who are a major contributor sto Australia’s tourism, into what is essentially a car park,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald, which inferred Carnival Australia was unfairly lumped with a $35,000 bill to move its passengers from White Bay to Sydney airports.
White Bay was off the agenda when Carnival
Australia’s flagship the Queen Mary 2 sailed into
Sydney Harbour last week
But a spokesperson for Sydney Ports told SpiceNews today (Mar 3) the operator chose to moor at White Bay on February 22 and knew in advance that Sydney’s two passenger ports (Wharf 8 at Darling Harbour and the International Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay) were occupied by other ships.
“Carnival insisted in bringing the ship into town on the day and it is their responsibility to come up with traffic management plans. Had we not allowed White Bay to be used, the ship would have to [drop anchor in the harbour] and passengers would have been delayed for up to 24 hours. We simply wanted to help the company to meet their passenger expectations.”
The spokesperson added Carnival Australia began pre-selling tickets for the Dawn Princess’s Australian leg months before it attempted to book a berthing in Sydney.
“Two years is the lead time to book a berth,” the spokesperson said. “But they went on sale without securing the berth. Had they checked or booked if Wharf 8 was free on that date before printing brochures for the Dawn Princess’ itinerary, this would not have arisen.”
Carnival Australia public affairs manager, Anthony Fisk, said he could not confirm or deny whether tickets were pre-sold for the Dawn Princess before berthing facilities were secured. He said he was unaware of the lead time required to book a berth in Sydney, but that Carnival Australia sells cruise tickets up to two years in advance.
“We sell 18-24 months in advance. I can tell you know we have not released [tickets for our] winter season for 2010,” he said.
Fisk said White Bay was an unfavourable venue to disembark international passengers as it lacked access to shops, public transport and entertainment facilities.
“We think White Bay is less of an ideal position than Wharf 8 because when we land in the middle of city, passengers can come out and spend money in bars and restaurant. It is very good for the local economy,” he said.
“There needs to be a lot more planning if they want to move the cruise terminal to White Bay. There is a lot of potential to redevelop the area instead of putting the terminal there as an afterthought.”
But Carnival Australia and other cruise operators will have to lump it or like it when development of Wharf 8, or Barangaroo, commences later this year and White Bay is converted into a temporary passenger terminal.
“Wharf 8 was originally a ‘temporary’ terminal when it opened and that was ten years ago,” Fisk continued. “We are fearful that temporary will turn into permanent. What we need is to look at the multi-use terminal at Garden Island.”
Linked to the mainland with reclaimed land, Garden Island is the base for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Carnival Australia’s flagship the Queen Mary 2 berthed at Garden Island last week with special permission from the RAN, though it is believed to have been a one-off deal.
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To read SpiceNews’ original report on the White Bay fiasco, click here.