The bulk of the Australia-based fleet of Royal Caribbean International (RCI) could soon move from Sydney Harbour to industrial Port Botany. Some progress has been made after more than 3-year long negotiations to build a passenger terminal alongside Botany Bay container terminals.
According to RCI regional vice president Asia Pacific, Gavin Smith, he was feeling “more commercially confident” due to the drop-off in Port Botany's cargo traffic and thought they were closer to getting a result.
The other challenge linked with the site is its convenient location close to Sydney Airport. The air draft restriction prevents tall ships from going into Botany Bay. However, the issue was looking likely to be solved in near future.
Royal Caribbean's decision to relocate its homeport was spurred by Sydney's chronic overcrowding, where just one berth can accommodate line's mega ships. Although it means leaving behind the view of Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, Smith said passengers would not miss out on sailing in the world-famous harbour when boarding in Botany: a scenic cruising experience would give the romance of a "Sydney Harbour sunset sailaway".
The Botany move stands to benefit other major cruise lines, facing less competition to book the prized berths at the harbourfront terminal of Sydney. MSC, Star Cruises and Disney will have the opportunity to bring their large vessels to Australia.
Recently, there have been speculations about Botany co-existing with Wollongong-Port Kembla. Smith shared that Royal Caribbean was “more likely to consolidate in one port", but in case too many other lines started using Botany, there was a risk of moving the problem, and Wollongong still needed to be developed as contingency.
This summer the line based Celebrity Solstice, Explorer of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas at Overseas Passenger Terminal in the Circular Quay of Sydney, with Legend of the Seas homeported in Brisbane. Next summer, the newbuild Ovation of the Seas will operate four voyages from Australia to New Zealand and Asia.