A multi-million dollar cruise terminal that was the jewel in the Palaszczuk Government’s tourism crown and timed to open ahead of the state election may not be operational until possibly the middle of next year.
Brisbane International Cruise Terminal at Luggage Point cost $177 million and built under a scheme that allowed the private sector to join forces with the government to deliver a service or infrastructure to meet a community need.
It was to be Brisbane’s second cruise terminal and capable of docking the world’s biggest ships, ones that could not be accommodated at Portside, Hamilton where traders have racked-up heavy losses since the cruise industry shut down.
The Luggage Point facility was due to start hosting ships on October 3, four weeks before the state election, but now it might not be operational until at least March or April, possibly later, if the federal government extends its ban on foreign cruise ships beyond December 17.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) says the logistics of preparing a passenger ship, from collecting provisions, food and beverages through to recruiting and rostering a crew, can take several months.
“There are long lead times and even if we were signing-off on a re-start today, it wouldn’t be until the end of the year, November or December, that those ships would be able to get back to Australia,” said Managing Director of Australasia CLIA Joel Katz.
About 180 cruises were planned to depart the new terminal in the first season of operation with the Carnival-owned Pacific Dawn scheduled as the first to set sail at 6am on October 3.
It was one of a dozen departures from the site scheduled for October which included Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas which can hold up to 4000 passengers and 1200 crew.
Carnival is now offering a 7-day cruise aboard the Carnival Spirit that departs Brisbane on December 20 that takes in Noumea and New Caledonia which could potentially be the terminal’s first departure.
However, given cruise lines need at least a couple of months of lead-in time prepare a ship for departure, Carnival would need to know soon that cruising would reopen after December 17.
“We are engaging with the both the state and federal governments towards a part resumption,” Mr Katz said.
He said, per capita, Australians were the most ardent cruisers in the world and Queensland, behind Sydney, was the second biggest market in the country.
“It’s a long term investment for Queensland. It has enormous potential to generate jobs and bring many many more visitors to Brisbane and Queensland in general,” he said.
“One in 17 Australians cruise each year. More Australians per head than any other cruise market in the world.”
When cruising finally restarts, it’s likely to be intrastate destinations only for Queenslanders.
The state has 14 cruise stops, more than any other state or territory in Australia, which makes it the most ideal departure point for intrastate travel, Mr Katz said.
“You can operate a cruise out of Brisbane that is carrying only Queenslanders and stay within the state…stopping at regional destinations,” Mr Katz said.
“There is an opportunity while the state borders remain closed to operate local cruises and, as we see a relaxation of borders and the opening of trans-Tasman travel.”
Passengers can expect to be temperature-tested and possibly be required to wear masks when cruising returns to Australian waters. Buffets may also be a thing of the past.
“The cruise lines are using this time to look at their health protocols and work with medical experts and to understand what a resumption will look like,” Mr Katz said.
“Wearing masks, temperature checking and…crew members may be there to serve the buffet as each cruise line looks at their operations to see how these can redesign their operations and the processes are as robust as they can be.”
A Queensland government spokesman said the terminal would be something Queenslanders would be proud of when it finally opened its doors.
“Like international air travel, the global pandemic has temporarily brought cruising to a halt,” he said.
“It will bring in 760,000 tourists, spending $1.3 billion in Brisbane and supporting 3750 jobs.”