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Cruise industry hails international wharf ‘dolphins’ decision

April 24, 2019 Headline News No Comments

As port cities around the world rise to the challenge of accommodating more and bigger cruise ships, a controversial decision on berthing facilities at Auckland’s Queens Wharf has drawn praise from the international cruise industry.

Approval for the construction of two temporary mooring points known as dolphins will ensure Auckland is able to cater to all types of cruise vessels and allow continued growth in cruise-related tourism, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said yesterday.

Cruise tourism is worth NZD 491 million (AUD 460 million) a year to New Zealand’s economy.

Cruise berthing arouses controversy in various parts of the world including Sydney, where increasing number of cruise ships seem destined to be sent to places tourists don’t want to go – namely Botany Bay rather than Sydney Harbour.

In Auckland’s case, the new dolphins will allow mega-cruise ships that currently anchor in the harbour to berth at Queens Wharf, close to the heart of downtown Auckland. The wharf can currently handle cruise ships up to 294 metres long. The dolphins will allow for ships of up to 362 metres.

The project has aroused much argument in Auckland. In January, the New Zealand Herald quoted planner Richard Blakey saying the positive economic benefits of the dolphins were not enough to offset “adverse environmental effects”.

The dolphins proposal has prevailed.

CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz said the decision was a step forward not just for Auckland, but for destinations around New Zealand.

“As the international gateway to New Zealand, Auckland’s current berthing restrictions are hampering cruise operations and threatening to limit economic growth both locally and in other regions,” Mr Katz said. “The decision to increase the capacity of Queens Wharf will mean larger ships can safely berth in Auckland and make onward visits to ports all over the country, bringing enormous economic benefits.”

Queens Wharf is currently unable to accommodate cruise ships longer than 294 metres. Ships between 295 metres and 320-330 metres can berth at the nearby Princes Wharf, but this is dependent on wind conditions and does not involve dedicated terminal or border processing facilities.

Cruise ships larger than 320-330 metres are unable to berth in Auckland at all. Those that do visit must anchor in Waitematā harbour and transfer passengers and crew to shore aboard tender boats.

“Auckland Council and its development arm Panuku have wisely recognised that the current situation is unsustainable and Auckland has been at risk of losing its place in international cruise itineraries, particularly as new larger ships join the world fleet,” Katz said.

“The solution planned for Queens Wharf is a relatively common technique used in ports around the world and provides for an increase in capacity without having to extend the pier. It will allow Auckland to join other cities internationally in welcoming all types of cruise ships and ensures New Zealand’s cruise tourism sector continues to thrive while long-term facilities are developed.”

Edited by Peter Needham

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