TRADERS in Fremantle say the decision of Carnival Cruises to stop using the city as a home port this cruise season couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The West Australian revealed on Monday that Carnival, the biggest liner group in Australian waters, has told the McGowan government it will no longer home port in Fremantle because of inadequate infrastructure throughout the state.
Cruise numbers are likely to fall from this season’s 60 to just 17 next year, blowing a $130 million hole in the state economy.
The Chart and Map Shop’s Chris Boichel hadn’t heard the news when the Herald dropped on Thursday, though his sister and co-owner Dani said she was aware of Carnival’s decision but not the details.
Mr Boichel says it will definitely have an impact on their business at a time when things are tough.
“Whenever there’s a cruise ship in port, we definitely have a lot of walk-ins,” he said.
“It will have a reasonable impact on us.
“It’s not great at the moment, we are having a hard time. It’s been worse—a couple of years go it was pretty bad when Fremantle was almost empty, so it has improved since then.”
Another trader bracing for the impact is Caroline Kindt from knitters’ paradise Yarns on Collie, who says tourists from cruisers makes up a solid chunk of her business.
“They like Australian wool, they come for the alpaca,” she says.
Ms Kindt said apart from the decline in tourist trade, she was also concerned about the state government’s priorities in building government offices in Fremantle, saying she didn’t believe the port city was suitable as an office district. She says the government should be focusing more on small businesses instead.
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said he’d sought a meeting with WA tourism minister Paul Papalia and hopes the state government can convince Carnival to change its mind.
“I get the sense Carnival were pulling out reluctantly, so hopefully the state government can get in front and make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Dr Pettitt said while the cruise company hadn’t singled out Fremantle’s ageing passenger terminal for criticism, the decision showed the council had been right to lobby for upgrades to South Quay.
“I hope this puts the passenger terminal and South Quay up the government’s list of priorities; it was an election promise,” Dr Pettitt said.
Fremantle Ports acting CEO Allan Gray defended Fremantle’s facilities, pointing out Carnival had only raised issues with Broome, Geraldton and Exmouth.
“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 indicates that arrangements in place at this port have worked well for the company,” Capt Gray said.
“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.”
Capt Gray said the port would work with Tourism WA and cruise line operators to try and ensure the industry returned to the growth it had been experiencing before Carnival’s decision.
by STEVE GRANT and OLIVIA MITCHELL