Cruise ship volunteers unhappy with their treatment by Port of Newcastle

By admin • 苏州性息 • 18 May 2019

An early artists’ impression of what the proposed terminal would look like.WITH the first of the season’s vesselsdue in Newcastle next month, the city’s cruise terminal operations appear to be hitting choppy waters.
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In one dispute, the volunteers who greet cruise passengers at the wharf say they have been “dumped” by the port operator, which told them it was handing that responsibility over to Newcastle City Council, which has volunteers who greet the passengers after a bus ride to the city.

The Port of Newcastle volunteers pictured with long-time cruise ship advocate Dave Brown in a promotion for National Volunteers Week in May this year.

In another, there is still no resolution to a funding standoff over the cruise terminal the government said would be ready for this season when it announced it two years ago.

The government committed $12.9 million to build the structure, but the Port of Newcastle confirmed in June that it needed as much as $4 million more to build it.

Both sides say talks are continuing, but observers say the push to build a container terminal in Newcastle against government policy is putting the port operator offside with Macquarie Street.

Read more:DP World says Newcastle would be viable without the container fee

There are also concerns that Newcastle is sliding down the statewide cruise ship hierarchy, with Port Kembla and Eden promoted heavily in a new state government Cruise Development Plan, unveiled in July.

With the cruise industry booming, Newcastle had been hoping to cash in on the overflow from Sydney, with calls for it to develop “home port” facilities to allow refuelling and provisioning to maximise the economic benefit.

Former Port of Newcastle chief executive Geoff Crowe and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald.

But the new report identifiesBotany Bay as the preferredSydney overflow, with Newcastle and other regional ports to be “predominately used for passenger transit calls aimed at attracting day visits”.

The Newcastle Herald has spoken with port and tourism figures over the cruise ship situation, with all expressing concern but not wanting to be identified.

One operator who would be named, Cheryl Clarke of Discover Newcastle Tours and Transfers,said she had only been in the industry a year but felt more could be done to present Newcastle in a better light to cruise ship visitors.

She described a situation at Queens Wharf last season where passengers disembarking fromthe bus bringing them from Carrington wereconfronted by “a scrumof operators lunging in front of people with brochures”.

Unofficial cruise schedule for the coming season. Courtesy Richard O’Connor

“It was a bit embarrassing really, and I said at the time that we need a more co-ordinated approach,” Ms Clarke said.

On the volunteers, the Herald understands there are three lots: the group being shifted to council control, an existing council group that meets passengers in the city, and a third group operated by Newcastle Now.

Ms Clarkesaid she had met a number of thevolunteers and said they were doing a good job and were“good ambassadors for Newcastle”.

Whenthe volunteers contacted theHeralda fortnight ago theysaid:“We were today told that thePortof Newcastle has dumped us, believing that the council should manage us.”

They said they had concerns in June when the port’s trade and business development officer, Dave Brown, left the organisation, but were told they were“safe”.

Mr Brown, who was also along-time co-ordinator of Cruise Hunter, declined to comment on the situation, saying he had moved to a new role with National Parks and Wildlife.

Radiance of the Sea in Newcastle. Picture: Dean Osland

The volunteers said it was ironic the port had praised themduring National Volunteers Week in May, saying:“Port of Newcastle would like to salute it’s cohort of 40 cruise ship volunteers who have been welcoming visitors to our shores for more than 15 years.

“Thank you for the unique service you provide to the Port and the City of Newcastle.”

As many as 18 visits are scheduled for this season. The volunteers said the first ship on October 25 hadonly 114 passengers but five days laterCelebrity Solsticewould bring 2850 people.

“The biggest ship, entering twice,isExplorer of the Seaswith 4029 people, both visits ona weekend,” they said.

“In February, we have three ships in six days withalmost 11,000 people to look after. You have to consider that we arevolunteersand this is the largest amount of work required of us.

Artwork of the proposed terminal.

“All we cost the portis a shirt, a drink and a bag of chips. That’s all we actually want.”

Soon after theHeraldraised questions about the volunteers’ concerns, one of them emailed to say that several of their group had been rung by the port and“warned not to speak with your newspaper”.

The port and the council have repeatedly declined to comment on the situation beyond saying that negotiations begunearlythis year to shiftthe port’s volunteer program tothe council were continuing.

The state Labor member for Newcastle, Tim Crakanthorp, said he was concerned about the lack of progress on the funding, and accused the government of going slow onthe proposal.

“This Government needs to stop playing petty politics with the Port of Newcastle, simply because they want the container cap removed and the Liberal’s port rort addressed,” Mr Crakanthorp said.

He noted that the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan referenced the Newcastle cruise terminal 14 times.

“If this project falls over this will hang on the government for failingto work with the Port of Newcastle to find a solution,” Mr Crakanthorp said.

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