Newcastle cruise ship tourism could double after terminal opens

THE number of cruise ships visiting Newcastle each year could more than double after the city’s $12.7 million cruise terminal is constructed.

The region’s tourism chief Will Creedon set a target on Monday of up to 30 ships a year, after GHD Woodhead’s concept designs for the terminal, to be completed at the end of 2018, were unveiled.

“Even without [the terminal] being built yet the anticipation from the cruise industry is strong,” Mr Creedon said.

“It’s because we have committed to investment … we are not speaking alone, with the help of the state government we are acting.”

The designs show the terminal will be built at Channel Berth, measure 3000 square metres and have a rippled roof and water-like glinting roof panels, to echo the city’s working harbour.

It will include a main hall to accommodate passengers, facilities for border security and customs agencies, an office area, first aid area, amenities, passenger drop-off and pick-up and a car park for up to 200 vehicles. 

Port of Newcastle chief executive Geoff Crowe said the cruise industry had grown “astronomically” and the terminal would be “hugely significant” and “continue the [city’s] momentum of revitalisation”.

“The opportunities this provides to Newcastle, the region and local businesses are enormous,” he said. “Sydney… can’t get a lot of vessels under the bridge to White Bay, so we can pick up some of that slack.”

Mr Crowe said work on the terminal followed an $800,000 upgrade to mooring bollards to allow the port to host larger and heavier ships.

“The Celebrity Solstice is the biggest ship we’ve had in so far and it carries 2800 passengers,” he said.

“In February 2019 we will bring in Explorer of the Seas twice that month and it carries 3900 passengers.

“Managing 2000 passengers is one thing but managing nearly 4000 passengers, you just can’t do it in a white marquee.”

Mr Crowe said the terminal would allow Newcastle to vie to become a home port, where cruise passengers begin and end their voyages around the southern hemisphere.

“It’s quite competitive to win that, but we can only win it if we have a cruise terminal and we’ve set up border force facilities and quarantining and customs and things like that,” Mr Crowe said.

“Eventually cruise visits could also be aligned with major events, such as the V8 Supercars, adding another dimension to the visitor and tourism experience.”

Princess Cruises is already selling a three day cruise on the Sea Princess, leaving Sydney on November 22, 2018, and stopping in Newcastle and Brisbane.

Mr Crowe said cruise shipping injects around $11 million per year into the local economy.

“Home porting has the potential to deliver even more economic value to the region via more cruise ships and more visitors and the opportunity for local businesses to provide goods and services for the provisioning of vessels.”

Tourism Hunter chairman Will Creedon said Newcastle Airport’s increased capacity also bolstered the region’s home port argument.

Mr Creedon said the terminal could be more than an entry and exit point and allow tourism providers to meet their customers as soon as they step off the boat.

Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the terminal would be a “signature” addition to the city. 

“We’ve talked about it for a while so it’s about getting on with it,” he said.

“These passengers are very discerning people, they’ve paid money, they’re at a stage in their life where they want things to work well, look attractive and they don’t want to turn around and think ‘that’s just another container terminal’ type of thing, they want to be uplifted and heartened by where they land.”

He said there had been discussions – but no decisions – on also using the terminal for conventions. 

“If it can be used for multiple uses, even better,” he said. “This is about confidence, about developing different economic activities and bringing in new and different jobs.

“It’s about adding more strings to your bow.”

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes described the terminal design as “another big tick” in the city emerging onto the global stage.

“The construction…  is a big signal to the world that Newcastle is ready to welcome national and international visitors to our city,” she said. 

“With the natural beauty and incredible amenity of Newcastle broadcast to millions over the weekend with the Supercars 500 event, this announcement couldn’t have come at a better time.”

The principal contractor will be appointed early 2018.

The Port of Newcastle said it will receive one ship next month and 11 during the 2018 calendar year. 

Seven ships are already scheduled to arrive in 2019 after the terminal’s slated opening.