Cruise market in jeopardy

The Eurobodalla’s lucrative cruise ship program could be in jeopardy with reports problems with the Clyde River sandbar and wharf infrastructure will take millions to fix.

For more local news and photos grab a copy of the Bay Post or Moruya Examiner.

The 11th hour cancellation of a visit by cruise ship MS Volendam earlier this week sank hopes of a quarter of a million dollar boost to the shire’s economy.

It took 12 months of risk management and logistic planning to prepare for Tuesday’s visit but less than 48 hours before the cruise ship’s projected arrival it was cancelled for “operational” reasons.

“The sandbar was not identified as an issue (in the risk management process),” Eurobodalla Tourism manager John Pugsley said on Monday.

But council’s general manager Paul Anderson later admitted not only was the sandbar an issue, so too was the Batemans Bay wharf infrastructure.

Mr Anderson said a number of issues were identified at a meeting between council and one of the ship’s officers on Tuesday.

“I understand there were a number of things,” Mr Anderson said. “It was mainly the wharf but also the sandbar.”

Eden residents Charles and Gladys Beecher are passengers on the ship’s 34-day circumnavigation of Australia.

Their comments, published in Thursday’s Eden Magnet, suggested council had given cruise operator Holland America an undertaking to fix all problems within 12 months.

“It was the sandbar and they (Batemans Bay) said they would prepare and had promised to do it within 12 months,” they are quoted as saying.

But council’s commercial and corporate director Cherie Enders yesterday said the cost of dredging a sandbar was “well beyond” council’s capacity.

“Work to the wharves would be in the hundreds of thousands but it would cost serious dollars to dredge the Bay,” she said.

Council manages the region’s wharf infrastructure on behalf of the NSW Lands Department.

Mr Anderson said it would take an all-government approach to address the issue.

“It’s not something for council to be lumbered with,” he said.

“It’s unreasonable to ask shire ratepayers to fund the expense of building infrastructure that would ultimately bring economic benefit to the NSW Government.

“Yes it would bring extra business to the community but it’s unfair to ask the entire community to fund that work.”

Mr Anderson said more investigation was needed and declined to give an indication of costs.

“There was some criticism that council must have known about the cancellation before Sunday but we didn’t,” he said.

“There was nothing I could have done and it’s not something I’m happy about.”

Council will meet with the NSW Premier’s Department, Department of Lands, NSW Maritime and the Marine Park Authority next week to discuss the matter.

“We’re aiming for next week,” Mr Anderson said. “We want to work out a way to move forward.”

The Bay Post/Moruya Examiner previously reported the cruise ship program could lead to six or seven ships a year and pour an extra $1 million into the Eurobodalla economy.

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