Ports of Auckland will impose new passenger levies to pay for the city council’s $10m plan to accommodate larger cruise ships.
The council announced yesterday that the city would soon be able to cater for larger vessels after approving the construction of two outer dolphin mooring structures off Queens Wharf.
However, the estimated $10m cost of the dolphins would be recovered through cruise ship passenger levies imposed and collected by Ports of Auckland. There is already a passenger levy for the use of equipment, repairs and maintenance of Queens and Princes wharves.
A spokesman for Ports of Auckland said the details of the levies had not been finalised but he confirmed it would be a new charge because it would be paying for new infrastructure.
“How much it is, which vessels have to pay for it, which passengers have to pay for it – that hasn’t been decided yet. We will work with the cruise industry to come up with a fair levy,” he said.
New Zealand Cruise Association chief executive Kevin O’Sullivan said he did not want to see a new charge imposed.
“But the cruise industry may well support a reasonable levy provided it is for cruise-related infrastructure. When that infrastructure is completed that levy should be dropped,” said O’Sullivan. “The unfortunate thing about levies is once you put them in they tend to stay there indefinitely.”
The two outer dolphins would be located around 80-85m off the northern edge of Queens Wharf and be ready to use for the 2019-2020 cruise season.
Auckland Council said they would be connected by a walkway and allow 350m-long ships to berth at the wharf, boosting the $220m and 4,000 local jobs the cruise industry already adds to the region’s economy.
“This decision has taken a long time but it is an important one,” said O’Sullivan.
“It gives the cruise industry an important signal that Auckland is ready to become a major hub in the South Pacific. Cruise ships are getting larger and we must be able to welcome them in order to reap the economic benefits from the fast-growing cruise sector.”
O’Sullivan said that becoming a major cruise hub would offer huge benefits to Auckland’s economy, as cruise ships would be more likely to choose the city to begin and end voyages, attracting passengers and crew before and after their cruises. Ships would also reprovision in Auckland, creating jobs and demand for local produce.
Auckland Council said the city was an increasingly popular stop on the South Pacific and Australia cruise ship circuit. Ship visits had grown from 40 in 2006 to 135 in 2018 and passenger numbers from 60,000 to 220,000 over the same period.
The international trend for larger cruise ships had seen the size of the largest vessels visiting Auckland grow from 294m in 2006 to now over 350m long, which are too big to berth safely at Auckland’s wharves. Half of the new ships on order today by cruise companies are too big to berth at the city, said the council.
Independent assessors found the council’s preferred choice of an inner dolphin at the end of Queens was unsafe for vessels over 300m long to moor.
The assessors also recommended future proofing cruise infrastructure for growth in accommodating the new 362m-long Oasis class of ships, which are expected to visit Auckland in 5-10 years.
Auckland Council said resource consent for the plan would be lodged early next year.