FREMANTLE Ports is expecting a 23.3 per cent drop in the number of cruise ships next year following the announcement P&O Cruises will no longer call Fremantle home.
The Port is winding down its record 2016-17 season that saw 60 cruise ships visit at the Fremantle Passenger Terminal, but P&O parent company Carnival Australia cited sub-par port infrastructure throughout the state as its reason not to continue using Fremantle as a homeport from 2018.
Fremantle Ports acting chief executive Allan Gray said it was disappointed with the decision.
“As far as we are aware, the decision to withdraw from Fremantle is because of difficulties with other WA port destinations,” he said.
“We have worked hard with Carnival to accommodate the home-porting of Pacific Eden and various Princess line vessels in recent years and positive feedback received over the years evidences that arrangements in place at this port have worked well for the company.
“In recent years, Fremantle Ports has spent well over $2 million refurbishing the Fremantle Passenger Terminal and further upgrading of this heritage-listed landmark building is planned as part of Fremantle Ports’ wider plans for the regeneration of Victoria Quay’s western end.”
Just 46 ships are scheduled to pull into Fremantle next year, with fears it could drop further in following years.
A Carnival Australia spokesperson said while P&O would not base a ship in Fremantle, ships from its seven other cruise brands would make almost 20 calls to WA next year.
“The decision on home porting in Fremantle was based on commercial considerations combined with uncertainty in relation to being able to deliver published itinerary calls to some regional ports in WA,” she said.
“We have also said that we will continue to working with the State Government to resolve these local issues so that we can make a contribution to the long term success of the WA cruise market and its economic value particularly at regional destinations.”
Cruising has injected more than $500 million into the WA economy in the last two years and Fremantle businesses have been among the biggest beneficiaries.
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said a decline in the number of cruise ships would be a serious blow to Fremantle retailers.
“They play an important role in bringing more tourists not only to Fremantle but the whole of Perth,” he said.
“While I understand a lot of the concerns are facilities in Broome, Geraldton and Exmouth, there is also a legitimate concern as to the experience passengers have when they arrive in Fremantle.
“Arriving in the middle of giant carpark and a sea of cars is hardly inviting and I know many of us cringe when we see often elderly people pulling suitcases in the hot sun towards the Fremantle CBD.
“But as they say where there is a crisis there is an opportunity and this will hopefully see a stronger focus on improvements to South Quay which Fremantle council has been encouraging as part of our Port City Priorities vision.”