New Zealand cruise terminal plan has lessons for Falmouth
1:00pm Monday 11th February 2013 in News
Down in the antipodes at the Port of Auckland a similar situation to that in Falmouth exists regarding the funding of new cruise ship facilities.
The Ports of Auckland Limited (POAL), operated by Auckland Council’s Investment Company and ratepayers, have already funded a £10 million project to turn a cargo shed on Queens Wharf into a cruise ship terminal.
In order to accommodate 300-metre plus cruise ships, POAL is considering asking ratepayers to fund a further £5 million upgrade to its wharf facilities.
The Queen Mary 2 is the largest ship to berth in the industrial part of the New Zealand port, but plans to berth mega cruise ships on Queens Wharf closer to the heart of the city need further investment.
An upgrade to strengthen the Queens Wharf, build a mooring system and provide gangways could cost £5 million. Cruise ship visits pumped £62 million into the Auckland economy last year.
With construction work well underway on widening the Panama Canal and huge demand to cruise from China, the 3,000 to 4,000-passenger capacity cruise ships will use the South Pacific more and more according to Cruise New Zealand chairman Craig Harris.
Already, 15 per cent of cruise ship visits to Auckland this season were too big for Queens Wharf and the figure would keep growing, he said.
“Our problem is we are trying to create certainty for the cruise lines and it is hard because these guys are scheduling two or three years ahead.
However, New Zealand Herald columnist Brian Redman was quite scathing in his opinion on the question of ratepayers footing the bill.
“If I’m sounding a little jaundiced, it’s because none of the proponents or beneficiaries of the improved facilities are offering to fund them,” he wrote. “They’re expecting Auckland ratepayers to dig even deeper into their pockets for the economic good - well, the economic good of cruise lines, tourist operators, foreign hoteliers and souvenir and food shops.
“If that’s not rich enough, ratepayers have to pay annual wharf operating costs of £2.25 million, yet the port company pockets the berthage fees paid by cruise operators.”
Comments to the newspaper were heavily against the proposal to ask ratepayers to foot the bill.
Regarding Falmouth, none of the major players, Cornwall Council, A&P Falmouth or Peel Ports have put their cards on the table regarding funding for the £26 million capital dredging project for the port.
When the results of the scientific dredge are disclosed this year the funding issue will surface if the green light is given to dredge.
Mr Redman feels that the user pays scenario should be adopted in Auckland.
He said: “A cruise ship terminal is just another bulk depot for commodities crossing the wharf – in this case humans rather than secondhand cars or containers full of frozen animal parts. Ratepayers are not expected to fund new freezer facilities, or container-lifting straddle carriers.
“That is rightly the business of the port operator whose expertise we retain to make these kinds of decisions based on solid commercial evidence. It’s hardly a new problem.”
Cruise New Zealand’s chairman said: “If we don’t make decisions, we are in danger of the cruise lines bypassing us.”
Where have we heard this before? But it is true. Auckland and Falmouth ignore the multi-million pound cruise ship business at their peril.
Perhaps, in the near future, mega cruise ships will berth on Queen’s Wharf Falmouth in the summer months before heading south for the New Zealand cruise season – berthing on Queens Wharf Auckland.