Gangway blow to ship visit

Glenn CordingleyBroome Advertiser

The State Government has been left red-faced after a cruise liner abandoned plans to dock in Broome because authorities failed to acquire a gangway to get passengers off ships.

The embarrassing episode comes as the McGowan Government promises to revitalise the tourism industry after a shocking downturn in visitor numbers to WA.

It also comes as the Government spends millions in taxpayer funds to dredge Broome port to allow bigger ships to berth anytime with no tidal restrictions on entries or departures.

The Kimberley Ports Authority accepted and confirmed a booking for the 700-passenger capacity ocean liner the Regatta about 18 months ago, but has yet to put in place the specialised all-tide gangway for that type of vessel.

Failure to acquire the gangway comes despite Federal funds of $375,000 being handed over almost a year ago towards the project.

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s visit to Broome this December has been cancelled and local industry support group Cruise Broome believes two more scheduled visits from similar passenger ships — one in the same month and the other in January 2019 — would also be aborted.

In October last year, Premier Mark McGowan announced a $7 million dredging program that would give passenger ships 24/7 all-tide access to Broome in readiness for the 2019 season.

The work was touted by Tourism Minister Paul Papalia as the reason Carnival Australia decided to return its P&O ships to WA after the company flagged problems at some regional ports, including limited access to Broome.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti has vowed to take action, starting with her meeting KPA chief executive Kevin Schellack and his senior staff this week.

“We will be meeting with the KPA to see what has happened,” she said

“I understand there were some engineering constraints but I am very keen to see what we can do to make sure we get as many cruise ships as possible into Broome.”

Mr Schellack said a recent design and construct tender for the gangway project “did not result in an acceptable solution to the unique challenges faced at Broome port”.

“We will be meeting with the key stakeholders in coming weeks to discuss if there are any possible solutions in the short term,” he said.

Cruise Broome chairman Shayne Murray has written to Ms Saffioti, Mr Papalia and Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan, calling for intervention to ensure Broome’s status as a cruise ship destination “was not further damaged”.

In the letter, Mr Murray said the group understood an “urgent” request was first made to the KPA for an all-tide gangway in May 2016 through Norwegian Cruise Line so it could schedule visits to Broome.

Mr Murray said in the correspondence, the company was later given an undertaking from the KPA that a “perfectly acceptable solution would be in place even if the all-tide gangway was delayed”.

In a letter to the KPA, Norwegian Cruise Line vice-president of port and itinerary planning, Mario Parodi, expressed disappointment at the lack of port facilities and said the company would “strongly reconsider” visiting the Port of Broome in the future.

“Broome is not the only port affected by tidal fluctuations, yet it is the only port we had to cancel on a 34-day voyage because of it,” he said.

Liner passengers spend millions of dollars in the town each season on everything from local tours and camel rides to pearls and art.

Mr Murray and Broome Chamber of Trade and Industry president Peter Taylor met KPA executives in December 2017 to flag concerns about damage being done to the town’s reputation by a “lack of timely and effective communications” to cruise ship agents.

“We were advised that our points were noted, but this was the port’s business,” Mr Murray said.

Mr Taylor said inability by the KPA to find a gangway solution had damaged the reputation of WA and Broome as a top cruise destination and was limiting growth in cruise line visits to the port.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails