Friday saw the MV Caledonian Sky arrive in Batemans Bay with her 90 passengers and 80 crew. The Mayor and tourism staff were at the ready to meet the passengers disembark at the Murra Mia jetty with the passengers then going on to enjoy the region including the ACT with prearranged excursions. While Council has indicated it is now looking to see more cruise ships visit the area what was apparent on the day was that we do not have the necessary facilities at the ready to accommodate sea faring visitors. The first challenge that have is that they need to disembark off shore and make their way into the bay via tenders. In the case of the MV Caledonian Sky these tenders are inflatables that require dexterous handling at the best of times and make stepping on and off quite difficult. It was noted that the disembarking of the 90 passengers was at times a struggle. The other interesting point in coming ashore from a ship anchored in the bay is that the tenders need to navigate the bar and contend with the tides. Fortunately the cruise vessels that do call in are aimed at a more adventurous clientele happy to get their feet wet disembarking on a beach as they did last week at Kempsey (below). But such robustness might not suit the next vessel due in December with 400 passengers and crew.
VIDEO: Kempsey Shire Council say "The secret is out! Enjoy this great visual perspective on the successful visit from MS Caledonia Sky to Trial Bay yesterday."
Having such high numbers requires a continued cycle of zodiacs zipping back and forth on what is quite a long journey. Once again the inadequacies of our set foreshore jetties, unable to respond to the tide, discredited themselves with the need to ferry passengers to the Hanging Rock pontoons in order to see them reboard. While all this might well have been a seamless experience for the delightful passengers who enjoyed the day it did not go unnoticed by many of the Batemans Bay businesses who are backing the need to have a pontoon installed on the foreshore and for council to once again reconsider the idea to provide a purpose build jetty at Hanging Rock. Council has long considered a pontoon be installed and back when Pam Green was the Mayor Council very nearly secured the funding to build one. Over the years the idea has been "floated" and each time it has "buoyed" itself to the surface it has been dealt a deflating prick to see the idea sunk once again. Once again, under the imminent demise of the T-Wharf and the formation of the Batemans Bay Foreshore committee the pontoon may well appear back on the cards. So what was learnt from last Friday's cruise ship visit? Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce president David McLaughlin told the Beagle “We know that small ships have small tenders and we have learnt from previous experience that small tenders are highly subject to weather." "Any change in conditions where they can not land their passengers will result in cancellations and this makes it challenging to develop tourism products, to roster staff and to commit to catering.” "In the grand scheme of things regular cruise ship visits would be another catalyst for the region. “We have so much potential, but we don't have the developed tourism products ready just yet." Reiterating the observations from those in the cruse boat industry Canberra has four of the top thirty attractions in Australia and Batemans Bay is perfectly located to access them because people can’t get to those from the Sydney, Wollongong or Eden cruise ship terminals. The Chamber president said "If we can access stable cruise ship visitation, and prove to them we have the facilities they need it will be a catalyst to help develop more great regional and local tourism products." "At the moment if the passengers come ashore and disperse it still leaves the 80 crew on board unable to leave the ship. That crew would love to come ashore, have a wander around the town, maybe have a haircut, buy lunch, enjoy a coffee and contribute to our local shopping precinct."
Above: two ideas for a jetty have been suggested - the first is from an extension of the Hanging Rock rockwall and the second from the south and of Casey's Beach. It is understood that Council has a report on the Hanging Rock option that will be sought by the Beagle when it becomes available