Cruise upgrades ‘priority’

STRANDED: Elderly and disabled passengers on the Viking Sun were reportedly unable come ashore at Geelong due to a lack of infrastructure.

By Luke Voogt

Geelong missing out on more than $28 million in cruise ship revenue has prompted urgent calls to review its port infrastructure.

The call comes after the Indy last week revealed just a single cruise ship booking for Geelong for the next three years, down from nine arrivals in 2014.

“I think it’s a very poor result,” shadow tourism minister David Hodgett said.

“We need to do something sooner rather than later.”

Mr Hodgett acknowledged a 2011 report by municipal alliance G21 prioritising a rebuilt Yarra St Pier, which burnt down in 1988.

According to the report Geelong could attract 25 cruise ships, adding $25 million ($28 million after inflation) to the local economy.

“Let’s dust these studies off and get some support from the State Government to update them,” Mr Hodgett said.

Geelong lobby groups with competing interests had complicated the issue when Mr Hodgett was Ports Minister in 2014, he added

Last week long-time cruise performer Andy Pobjoy told the Indy limited facilities prevented “cashed-up” passengers from coming ashore.

Elderly and disabled passengers were reluctant to get on tender boats, the Geelong pianist explained.

Tourism Geelong and The Bellarine executive director Roger Grant refloated a proposal for dolphin bouys to extend Cunningham Pier.

But Darryn Lyons, who campaigned for a Yarra St pier as mayor, lambasted the proposal this week.

“Is he serious? Give me a break,” an enraged Mr Lyons said.

“If a cruise ship pulled it up (at Cunningham Pier) it would fall over like matchsticks, which to be honest might not be a bad thing.”

Mr Lyons described Geelong’s current facilities as a “complete and utter embarrassment”.

“Geelong (is) the home of NDIS and WorkCover (and) we can’t even get disabled people off a bloody ship!” he said.

“It’s been a major, major issue and it’s why we’ve lost so many cruise ships here.”

But Australian Cruise Association, which will hold its annual forum in Geelong in September, supported the dolphin additions to Cunningham Pier.

Overflow from Melbourne and an increasing number of smaller ships with “high-yielding” passengers would see an increase in cruise ships for Geelong, the association’s chief executive officer Jill Abel said.

“Approximately one third of the 107 new ships being built to 2027 will be smaller, up to 1,000 passenger, ships which will suit destinations such as Geelong,” she said.

Tourism Minister Martin Pakula did not respond to the Indy’s request for comment before deadline.


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