The cruise industry is constantly improving, finding new ways to improve the vacationing experience for passengers, as well as finding was to increase the safety on vessels. As a result, a major change may be in the works for a shipping channel in Auckland, which may need to be widened following the release of larger vessels.
Although Port Chalmers’ wharves are long enough to accommodate the new generation of larger cruise ships, the width of the shipping channel near Harington Pt may need modification.
Authorities have discovered that several of Auckland’s wharves are too short for cruise ships beyond 300 meters in length. Port Otago has already accommodated cruise ships of 311 meters and 317 meters at its 420-meter-long Beach St wharf at Port Chalmers, but officials worry that vessels larger than 317 meters will not be able to make it through.
Chief executive Geoff Plunket explained that Port Otago had not yet been approached about hosting vessels exceeding 317 meters in length, but if it was, then there would be a problem.
Not only are wharf expansion projects expensive, but Auckland’s Queens Wharf is already in the middle of an $18 million upgrade is has already been deemed too small for the new generation of larger cruise ships. The wharf may need a $10 million top-up for the completion of the project so the appropriate expansions can be made, but this is already costing tax payers in Auckland an arm and a leg.
However, if the channels are not expanded to accommodate to these larger vessels, the costs to Auckland officials may grow even more following potential injuries for passengers and crewmembers aboard these vessels that are too big to pass through. When passengers and crewmembers become injured while on a vessel due to someone else’s negligence – in this case, Auckland’s – they may consult with a cruise ship accident lawyer to file a case against the alleged guilty party. If they win their case, then Auckland might have to spend a lot more than $10 million to fix the wharves.
Last year, Port Otago gained 25-year consents from the Otago Regional Council to deepen and widen the shipping channel between Taiaroa Head and Port Chalmers, but only if larger container vessels made mention that they would call on a regular basis. Because this did not happen, the expansion was put on hold. However, as more and more new generation ships are being released, the expansion seems inevitable.
In addition to ships getting larger, the widening of the Panama Canal, scheduled for next year, as well as increasing demand for cruises by China, has led to an increase in travelers, so naturally, vessels have to become larger so they can accommodate to upwards of 3,5000 eager cruisers.
According to officials, 15 percent of cruise ships that visited Auckland this cruise season were too big for Queens Wharf and the figure appears to be growing, said Cruise New Zealand chairman Craig Harris. ”Our problem is we are trying to create certainty for the cruise lines and it is hard because these guys are scheduling two, three years ahead. ‘If we don’t make decisions we are in danger of the cruise lines bypassing us.”