Melbourne would get a significant tourism boost if a man-made island able to dock luxury cruise ships was built in Port Phillip Bay, according to Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle.
With luxury cruise liners getting bigger and bigger, and Station Pier getting older, building a man-made island in the bay was an idea worth considering, Cr Doyle said.
From the island, international visitors could then be ferried up the Yarra River to Docklands, putting them within "a one minute walk to a tram, the iconic Melbourne way to come into the city," Cr Doyle said.
"Why not think outside of the square? Why not think about something like - as has long been mooted - an island in the middle of Port Phillip Bay? And to create an artificial island there which could have tourist facilities, where we could provide specialty docking for these super luxury liners, no matter how big, both now and into the future. And then bring them into the heart of the city into Docklands, through ferry activities like Paul Little's. And that would be a much more pleasant sort of arrival into Australia and Melbourne," Cr Doyle said.
Services provided by the federal government, such as passport controls, could be conducted on the island, he said.
"It could be really a very vital part in doubling the number of these cruise ships that come to Melbourne. And in particular, as they get bigger and bigger, if we only have Station Pier - we are less and less attractive," he said.
Cr Doyle said Station Pier, in Port Melbourne, was "a pretty unattractive arrival point," and had significant limitations. When passengers left Station Pier they were "nowhere near the centre of the city," he said.
Cr Doyle said luxury cruise ships were "getting bigger and bigger. They are very lucrative where they are coming into a port like Melbourne, not just in the spend of the people, but also in the re-provisioning of the ship - and that is a major business," he said.
"We don't really compete terribly well, because Station Pier was never purpose-built for luxury liners. It was a very utilitarian docking point, and that's not what luxury liners want, and it's not what this particular clientele wants," he said.
The lord mayor is not the first person to float the idea of building a man made island in the bay.
In November 2015 Fairfax Media reported on a proposal to build a giant industrial island near the Yarra River mouth that would be big enough for three large container vessels to berth at. The man-made island was proposed as the final part of a four-stage expansion of the port.
And in 2004 a residential island made of silt from the channel dredging of the bay was proposed. Those behind the idea suggested that the island, or islands, would be purely for residential development, would have their own power and water supplies, and be car-free.