Two weeks after the announcement of the deployment of the new Ovation of the Seas to Australia for 5 itineraries to New Zealand, Royal Caribbean International has been faced with the first major setback - Ports of Auckland changed its plans to construct a wharf big enough.
Auckland Council, owning the port company, announced that only one of the planned two expansions would proceed at Bledisloe Wharf, which would be unable to accommodate the 4,180-passenger, 348-metre Ovation of the Seas. This compromise not only threatened the first season of Auckland's biggest-ever visiting cruise ship, but it also puts in danger the national economy and fast-growing cruise industry of the country.
Kevin O'Sullivan, Cruise New Zealand chairman, said that Ports of Auckland had advised the port would not be able to take the new generation of larger cruise ships such as the Ovation, without the full extension it had planned originally. He added that if the ship was unable to call at Auckland, it was unlikely to come to New Zealand at all.
However, such a scenario has not yet been confirmed by the operator. According to Gavin Smith, regional vice president Asia Pacific, RCC, the company would "attempt to seek a solution to the issue". Smith admitted Auckland was an important destination for their guests who visited from around the world and added they would "continue to work closely with Ports of Auckland to determine a working solution for Ovation of the Seas to visit”.
The shock agreement between Auckland Council and Ports of Auckland followed a 4-week “stand-off”, after councillors had reacted to the news that the extensions would reach 100 metres into the harbour. Auckland's wharf extension plans are the subject of a forthcoming Port Future Study into the effects of the extensions. According to O'Sullivan, that would determine the extent of further port extension.