The Gold Coast is potentially facing a catastrophic planning blunder with Brisbane soaring ahead as the preferred future cruise destination in the region and major cruise companies refusing to offer any commitment to the proposed half-billion-dollar Gold Coast oceanside terminal.
Image above: proposed Brisbane super cruise terminal, via Port of Brisbane Authority
by Jake Dunn
BUILD IT AND THEY WON’T COME – WELL MAYBE, POSSIBLY … THEY’LL DECIDE AFTER THEY SEE SOMEONE ELSE USING IT
It is becoming increasingly apparent as processes advance that the two biggest cruise companies basing ships in Australia are baulking at offering any tangible support towards the concept or construction of a Gold Coast oceanside cruise terminal.
In a fresh response to questions from LiQUiFY Magazine, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean International (RCI) – one of two major cruise lines plying Australian waters – said they won’t be investing any money into the Gold Coast proposal and that, if a terminal were ever built, they would wait and see if it had anything to offer them before making any decisions about scheduling ships here.
“Royal Caribbean has no plans to build a cruise terminal on the Gold Coast,” said the spokesperson, adding that they ‘could’ be interested in a future terminal however would want to see the terminal first and know that it met the economic needs and suitability of the company’s requirements prior to coming to the Gold Coast.
“If another party were to build one and it was economical, and suitable for use, there could be interest in calling there,” the spokesperson told LiQUiFY.
The current position of the company has diverged little since a statement issued in 2013 by the company’s then Australian Managing Director, Gavin Smith, made it clear that as a destination, the Gold Coast did not meet their business objectives and they were only interested in Brisbane.
“Royal Caribbean has no plans to build a cruise terminal on the Gold Coast” – 2017 Statement from Royal Caribbean International
“Our interest as a cruise ship operator however is in the potential for a base port to be created in Brisbane that can accommodate our 300m+ ships and enable a full ship turn around to be completed – this is our primary desire for cruise infrastructure in Queensland,” said Smith at the time.
Mr Smith said that both his company and rival cruise heavyweights Carnival P&O likely share the same position regarding a proposed terminal for the Gold Coast.
“I believe this is consistent also with the desires of the other major organisations.
“Such a facility would enable expansion of our business into Brisbane with a home ported ship … with this in mind, it makes it difficult for me to support a ‘way’ port development in south east Queensland that does not deliver against either the objectives of ourselves or the Australian based cruise industry,” – said the RCI Managing Director.
It is understood that the mayor of the Gold Coast, Tom Tate, is well aware of these views however is choosing to push ahead and continue an ongoing and uncapped rate-payer-funded investigation into various incarnations of a Gold Coast cruise terminal proposal.
LiQUiFY Magazine investigated the effects of such a structure on swell using computer modelling and ripple tank studies using a variety of basic swell directions, sizes and periods – the results demonstrated significant swell impacts in the immediate area and potential swell impacts for several kilometres both north and south of the structure. Despite the obvious surf amenity loss that the terminal will deliver, the mayor is strangely maintaining that there will be no impacts of surf amenity, defying all logic and scientific reasoning
Separately to RCI’s non-commitment, Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) – who operate the famous P&O brand in Australia – have also indicated they will not support the proposal and development of a terminal here, opting instead to wait and see if it offers anything they may be interested in after it is built.
A Carnival spokesperson admitted that the company has no interest in the Gold Coast as a turnaround or home port, and whilst they could possibly explore transit and day visits in the future, they would however wait and see until after it is built to make any decision.
“Irrespective of what ultimately happens at the Gold Coast, Brisbane would continue to be the main turnaround port where cruises start and finish,” said the spokesperson.
The comments mirror what Carnival’s CEO, Ann Sherry, recently told LiQUiFY in an response to questions regarding their potential commitment.
Sherry, who is considered a cruise industry icon in Australia, was adamant that building a terminal on the Gold Coast would not be something Carnival would participate in.
“We are not party to the discussion and have flagged for some time that the decision to build a facility needs to be taken locally, ” she said.
Ann Sherry also expressed some concern over the reliability of the proposed oceanside terminal, highlighting that her company is well aware of the weather conditions and viability of the location in the open Pacific Ocean.
“The Gold Coast has very difficult logistical challenges given the sand movements, waves and general weather dependance of any facility outside a protected anchorage,” she added.
The actual stances held by the cruise companies are in direct conflict with recent newspaper headlines attempting to suggest that the cruise companies are backing the idea and that, if built, they will be coming for sure.
“The Gold Coast has very difficult logistical challenges given the sand movements, waves and general weather dependance of any facility outside a protected anchorage” – Ann Sherry, CEO Carnival Cruise Line Australia
One such headline published on the morning of the council vote read, “Build it and they’ll come: cruise lines keen on proposed Gold Coast terminal” – however the text of the article provided no such assertion and very little evidence of industry support for the Gold Coast other than brief and recycled industry statements that did more to demonstrate the industry’s lack of direct commitment or backing for the construction of a terminal on the Gold Coast.
BRISBANE IS THE PLACE, SAYS CRUISE LINES
Both major companies, Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line, have publicly and actively thrown their weight well and truly behind Brisbane’s new Luggage Point international cruise terminal project, investing both energy and money into the project whilst highlighting that their focus will be Brisbane in the future.
When asked recently about home port and turnaround port objectives in South East Queensland, especially when stacked against the Gold Coast proposals, Carnival CEO Ann Sherry was blunt and to the point.
“Our position remains that Brisbane would continue to be seen as the turnaround port for the area, and our focus continues to be on the construction of an appropriate facility there,” she said.
The Port of Brisbane Authority is guiding the Brisbane terminal development and is understood to have secured significant funding from both Royal Caribbean and Carnival which have emerged as willing partners and majority financiers of the project.
Royal Caribbean International are fully backing the new Brisbane terminal with their own money and their praises – no such interest is evident at all for the Gold Coast mayor’s costly proposal for an oceanside terminal off The Spit
According to leading cruise website www.australiancruiseingnews.com, the new project won’t require any government funding and is privately funded by the major cruise lines.
“Taxpayers will not have to shoulder the construction cost. Two of the world’s largest cruise companies – Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Corporation – will spearhead the building of the terminal,” said a recent article on the ACN website.
The cruise industry website asserts that 80% of the approvals are already in place for Brisbane and the project is ready to go.
In stark contrast to the Brisbane project, both major cruise companies have confirmed they are unwilling to spend a single cent on any Gold Coast terminal project.
Brisbane’s new Luggage Point site may not have the beaches that the Gold Coast has, however it does have a list of essential infrastructure items making it a significantly superior business option for investing companies.
Just some of the onsite or near-site infrastructure, characteristics and services confirmed that the Brisbane site already has in place but the Gold Coast either doesn’t have or can’t possibly achieve are –
- Easy access to ship bunker fuel, overland and supplied from nearby fuel deposits and plants
- Direct and close access to a full-scale international airport
- Access to a nearby heavy rail line that can easily and cost-effectively be extended to meet the terminal
- Scheduling surety from a proper deep-water harbour that is not exposed to ocean swell and elements
- Near unrestricted space to expand and grow in the future, and space to develop the vast support infrastructure needed for a full turnaround home port
- No impact to recreational amenity or visual amenity – consistent with its surrounding developments
- Easy access to existing major customs and quarantine infrastructure
- Cost-effective location with easy road access (already budgeted and planned to be upgraded)
- Cost effective construction costs with estimated $100 million total price tag
- Major cruise lines already publicly committed and financially invested
- Strong State Government and local support
- Little to no public opposition
- No loss of prime beachfront public land or dedicated public park land
By all appearances it is evident that both the State Government and the local Brisbane council are on board with the project also with Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, Graham Quirk, putting his hat into the ring, offering his council’s endorsement and support towards the new super terminal.
In a statement released by the South East Council of Mayors, Graham Quirk said, “at a local level, Brisbane City Council included this location in the local plan in 2012 and in City Plan 2014 for a potential cruise ship terminal. We’re pleased to see the Port of Brisbane has now received the support of the State Government for this project.”
The Lord Mayor confirmed his council is backing the plan in saying, “The proposed deep water terminal at Luggage Point will enable vessels of any size to dock in Brisbane, and could be up and running by as early as 2019. The nature of the proposal means it will be 100 percent privately funded. No tax payer or rate payer funds are required.”
Late last year the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, made it abundantly clear that her government saw no need for a second cruise terminal to be built just an hour down the road from the new Brisbane one.
The Premier, on ABC radio, said, “once this cruise ship terminal opens up here at Luggage Point, with its proximity that it has to the airport, I think you’ll find that there may not be a need for that second cruise ship terminal on the Gold Coast.”
“If they want to do their business case and submit it to us, then they can … if the council wants to do their work, let them do their work but I think you’ll find once it opens up here in Brisbane there’s going to be less of a need for it on the Gold Coast, because people will be able to travel down there quite conveniently,” added the Premier.
“I think you’ll find that there may not be a need for that second cruise ship terminal on the Gold Coast” – Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
The new Brisbane super cruise ship home port is currently scheduled to be opened in late 2019 according to the Port of Brisbane, around the same time the City of Gold Coast council is still wrapping up initial environmental impact studies for their Gold Coast proposal.
In a statement released by the Premier, she said, “a new purpose built, deep water Cruise Ship Terminal would be a major step forward for the tourism sector here in Queensland.”
COUNCIL FORGES AHEAD, IGNORING A SEA OF WARNING SIGNS AND RED FLAGS
Despite revelations that the major cruise companies are solely focussed on Brisbane and have already shown considerable hesitation and concern regarding the Gold Coast proposal, the City of Gold Coast council voted yesterday to progress their own process and spend another round of rate payers funds pursuing their pipe-dream oceanside terminal.
In the face of limited industry support and calls from the Premier of Queensland saying there may be no need for the Gold Coast project, the council abandoned the mounting concerns and a growing series of red flags to shift direction towards an oceanside home port terminal for the city – again shattering mayor Tate’s clear election promises that there would be “no cost to rate payers” and it would be a “transit port only”.
Opponents of the terminal plan have taken aim at the council, labelling those councillors that voted to support the progression of the process as ignorant and blind, telling LiQUiFY that the project fails to financially stack up and the recent estimations regarding the possible patronage and economic return on such a development are fanciful and unrealistic.
An almost-comical conceptual video being purported by the local council shows the Pacific Ocean looking like a flat and smooth lake for miles in all directions, with a blank cruise ship glistening in the mid afternoon sun, barely a breath of wind, and almost no corresponding home-port infrastructure appearing on the shore site – no wonder the local councillors are supportive when they are constantly being bashed around the head with unrealistic imagery and claims like this
Late yesterday a Save Our Spit Alliance spokesperson said, “Brisbane is the preferred home port option and the industry has made that clearer than clear to our councillors, yet they have again blindly followed the mayor down his pet-project development rabbit hole – the ignorance demonstrated by some of these elected representatives is unprecedented.”
“The visible links between this proposal and the adjacent Chinese ASF Consortium casino highrise development are numerous and obvious given that the same companies, Price Waterhouse, MacroPlan Dimasi and Aecom are doing both of them – how can councillors be so naive to this blatant land grab?
“We know how Aecom works, just look at what they did with the economic and operational projections for the Clem 7 Tunnel in Brisbane … if you want inflated figures that defy logic yet benefit construction companies and development proponents, then they seem to be the go to firm,” they added.
Approximately 11 hectares of irreplaceable oceanfront public reserve and parkland are under threat as the proposed terminal encroaches on dedicated public spaces – something the now-Premier of Queensland promised would never be touched under a Labor government
The Save Our Spit spokesperson expanded on their take on the constantly escalating figures and complexities of processes involved, calling out the council for what they believe are dodgy dealings and secret agendas.
“The visible links between this proposal and the adjacent Chinese ASF Consortium casino highrise development are numerous and obvious given that the same companies, Price Waterhouse, MacroPlan Dimasi and Aecom are doing both of them” – Save Our Spit Spokesperson
“It’s just unacceptable that a terminal idea that was supposed to be modest and cost so little has now been revealed as a half-billion-dollar behemoth that’s going to be an incredibly high-risk and low-return project by all evidence – of course they knew – the mayor knew this would happen all along and he’s kept the public in the dark.
“Our council must have rocks in their heads if they think this is a good way to attract investment and tourism to the city, it’s a massive risk and low to negative return venture that masks a subversive real estate plan.
“They’ve totally wasted money and squandered the chance to position the city to capitalise on the emerging and growing Brisbane market and passenger numbers, and Gold Coasters are going to be the sore losers when we miss Brisbane’s cruise passengers and nobody is willing to pay $450 million or likely more for a defunct white elephant,” said Save Our Spit.
With costs spiralling out of control, the local mayor promising that ratepayers won’t be paying for the terminal and the cruise industry unwilling to spend a cent, Save Our Spit says only one logical outcome remains, and they suspect it has been the plan all along.
“The only possible way to get this deliberately unusable and broken piece of hoax infrastructure in place is to trade prime public land to cashed up foreign developers for it – they tried it with Wavebreak Island and nearly succeeded in ripping off Queenslanders of their land and property, now … here we go again – the worse the project economically is, the more land and public parks they will try to give away to pay for it – it’s an age-old real estate scam,” the SOS spokesperson asserts.
“The council is involved in a land scam and it’s a shyster’s process to see a small minority benefit greatly at the expense of the majority.
“Save Our Spit are calling on the State Government to intervene and it’s long overdue that the Local Government Minister stepped in to put this dodgy LNP process under the microscope.”
In yesterday’s council meeting, just four councillors voted against the progression of the proposed project.
Both Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines have expressed that their focus is Brisbane as the new home port and turnaround port for South East Queensland, and that the Gold Coast would be considered an afterthought should it ever be built.
LiQUiFY recently broke news that the terminal was unviable as a port of call, and that feasibility reports suggested the proposal had secretly grown to now be a full-scale industrial home port with an almost a half-billion dollar development cost – something that the mayor strongly campaigned against and promised voters would not be happening.
The feasibility studies into the economic case for the terminal, produced by Price Waterhouse Cooper in conjunction with Aecom and MacrPlan Dimasi, remain secret and confidential despite calls from the public – who paid for the studies – to release them.
“The terminal would be a port of call only, without refuelling or disposing of sewage” – Mayor Tom Tate, 2016 election policy
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate’s own 2016 election policy that prescribed his intention for an oceanside terminal – the one he loudly took to voters as part of his campaign in 2016 for re-election – has now all but been abandoned in the wake of recent revelations regarding the cost, scale, home-port infrastructure and the addition of fuel and sewerage infrastructure and services.
The current and very different incarnation of the cruise ship terminal has not been taken to the public for comment, endorsement or public consent and no consultation or public feedback has been sought //