The port lost the cruise ships - mainly to neighbouring Akaroa Harbour - after the 2011 earthquakes and, more than 3yrs on, it's still fighting with insurers. LPC's claim has been called potentially the largest in Australasian history: about 500 port assets, including the HO building in Lyttelton, wharves and piles were EQ-damaged, with an estimated half-billion dollar total!
|cruise ship in Akaroa, 2011|
Meanwhile cruise companies have been told the port won't reopen to cruise ships before 2017...and there's the problem.
Royal Caribbean Cruiseline, the world's second-biggest cruise company, says one of its vessels Voyager of the Sea can't berth in Akaroa because it does not have small boats to carry their passengers to shore (the ship didn't need tenders to berth in Lyttelton Port, as there's a wharf). Voyager of the Sea (with 3500 passengers) would have visited six times this season if LPC facilities had been open, pouring half a million dollars into the region every time.
But this is an obvious opportunity. Why don't tourism operators in Akaroa join together in a business venture, and buy a small fleet of ferry boats? Sure, some may say it's not worth it for just six visits a year. But the bigger picture means more visits, the salvation of troubled small tour operators, a regional gain of millions...
Akaroa is the top-rated port call in all New Zealand: when passengers come off the ships, they absolutely rave about its beauty. So, instead of being crippled by the Lyttelton situation (which won't be resolved for years), capitalise on it. Crunch the numbers on a ferry business plan to secure the cruise visits. How hard can it really be?