WA Labor hopeful that world’s biggest cruise company will return to our shores

Daniel EmersonThe West Australian
VideoAustralia's largest ocean liner group is leaving the state due to 'poor' port infrastructure

Tourism Minister Paul Papalia is hopeful of enticing the world’s biggest cruise company back to WA after upgrades to Fremantle and Broome port facilities.

Carnival Cruise Lines, owner of the P&O brand in Australia, signalled in May it would no longer use Fremantle as a home port, resulting in cruise visits to WA dropping from an expected 60 berths to 17 by 2018-19. The impact to the WA economy was estimated at $135 million and put a spotlight on the tired-looking Fremantle Passenger Terminal.

Mr Papalia said Carnival had concerns about facilities at Broome, Exmouth and Geraldton ports, as well as Fremantle.

The Government had installed “shore tension units” at Geraldton port.

The units keep mooring lines constantly taut to reduce the movement of berthed vessels during rough weather.

Mr Papalia said little could be done about Exmouth, where the port was not deep enough to accommodate cruise liners. They typically anchored in deep water off Exmouth Sound and passengers were transferred on boats, which were unpopular in rough weather and with older passengers.

He said there were rock obstructions in the channel approaching Broome port which, if removed via dredging, would give cruise ships a bigger tidal window.

“The real issue is Broome because it is such a world-class destination,” he said. “In the event that we were able to provide uninhibited access, I think we could get them (Carnival) back, so I’m hopeful.

“I’m working with Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Transport Minister Rita Saffioti to work on a solution to that problem as a massive priority for us in the near term.

“Fremantle, it’s a gradual process but it’s just ugly and old and not great. Fremantle council and the port have a plan to upgrade gradually. In time that place will be restored and renovated and made more attractive.”

A Fremantle Ports spokeswoman said it was “finalising plans to upgrade some aspects of the Fremantle Passenger Terminal in the short term to enhance visitor amenity”.

A City of Fremantle spokesman said it was “committed to working towards better connections between the passenger terminal and Fremantle city centre”. Carnival was contacted for comment.

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