Northern Territory Cruise Ship Industry One Step Closer to Fully Re-Opening

Northern Territory Cruise Ship Industry One Step Closer to Fully Re-Opening
The Ponant French company cruise liner "L'Austral" during an inaugural stopover in Bordeaux on April 25, 2016. This ship, 142 metres long is served by 136 crew members and can host 264 passengers. (GEORGES GOBET/AFP via Getty Images)
Steve Milne

Cruise ships may soon be sailing into Northern Territory (NT) waters again after the NT Chief Health Officer updated a health direction to increase the number of passengers and crew allowed on board ships docking in the Territory from 150 to 350.

The decision comes as part of a staged re-opening of the cruise industry, which, prior to COVID-19, generated $60 million (US$42.9 million) worth of annual expenditure in the Territory.

In a media release on Wednesday, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Natasha Fyles said the cruise ship industry is vital to Top End tourism, and this increase to the capacity of crew and passengers aboard domestic boutique cruise ships will be a significant boost for operators and retailers.

“We are safely re-opening the cruise ship industry in a staged approach and look forward to seeing this industry return and grow into the future,” she said.

Chair of Asia Pacific cruise ship operator PONANT, Sarina Bratton, welcomed the NT Government’s decision in leading Australia to permit small expedition ships to visit Territory waters again, but highlighted that federal biosecurity restrictions now need to be lifted.

“We are now calling upon the Australian Government to immediately adjust the declaration under the Biosecurity Act to allow our operations in Australian waters to commence,” she said.

On Feb.11, Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt said that the biosecurity period which has been in place since March 18, 2020, would continue until April 17, 2022, meaning that international ships carrying more than 100 people will still not be able to dock in Australia.

However, Hunt made it clear that the Commonwealth will remove the restrictions on cruise ships as soon as it is safe to do so.

“The emergency requirements will be reviewed regularly to consider the latest medical advice,” he said.

This comes as Australia prepares to re-open its borders to international visitors on Feb.21, and the Northern Territory Government is injecting $12.8 million ((US$9.1 million) into the tourism and business sectors in an effort to attract travellers and workers to the Territory, thus helping COVID-19-impacted businesses gain momentum.

Among the measures to be funded is the $2.6 million (US$1.85 million) Working Holiday Maker Campaign and Tourism and Hospitality Turbo Charge, a highly-targeted interstate and overseas marketing campaign to attract around 2,000 new tourism and hospitality workers by April, ensuring businesses can accommodate customers and deliver services.

An international leisure tourism marketing campaign will receive $3 million (US$2.14 million), and work closely with Tourism Australia to target specific markets and support airline partnerships, as well as travel trade activity, while another $3 million will be spent on supporting industry to deliver projects and strategies to attract and retain workforces.

Other measures include the relaunch of the Work Stay Play incentive, through which local hospitality and tourism businesses can apply for up to $1,500 (US$1,070) for each new employee they attract to the Territory for the peak dry season and $1.35 million (US$962,415) to boost the Territory’s skilled migration capacity.

In addition, initiatives are also underway by Study NT to lure international students to the Territory, including a destination awareness marketing campaign in key focus markets.

Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at [email protected].
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