Port Otago is worried cruise ships making hasty decisions
to forgo visiting Milford Sound will have ''significant flow-on
effects'' for Dunedin.
Bad weather resulted in the cancellation of seven cruise ship
visits to Port Chalmers and nine to Fiordland, where Port
Otago also supplies piloting services.
At a cruise ship season debriefing yesterday, Port Otago
commercial manager Peter Brown said the season had been
terrible, which had quite an impact on the company's revenue,
as it had for retailers and tour operators.
The company was most concerned by the number of cancellations
for Milford Sound, previously a ''pinnacle'' stopover, based
on very early weather forecasts.
''[Cruise ship companies] are not taking the advice of local
pilots on board. The decision's being made in Seattle, Los
Angeles or Florida.''
That decision had ''significant flow-on effects'' for
Dunedin, he said.
Port Otago hoped to work with the cruise ship companies to
encourage them not to make the decision too early and to take
advantage of the pilots' local knowledge of weather patterns.
''I suspect by missing Fiordland they're sacrificing a little
bit to make some money. It's cheaper to stick with the
schedule, steam slower and save some money.''
Cruise Ship New Zealand board member Craig Harris said more
ship visits to Milford had been cancelled this year, but it
was purely due to bad weather and for passenger comfort.
It had mostly affected ships travelling from Australia, when
captains were looking two to five days in advance on their
''sophisticated weather equipment'' and decided to avoid bad
weather and only go as far south as Akaroa.
''It happened mostly in the early part of the season in the
Mr Brown said feedback from ships that did visit Dunedin was
mostly positive, although issues had been raised about
improving signage, even though it had been upgraded for the
Given the controversy surrounding iSite handling the bookings
for tours at the wharf, Port Otago was reassessing how it
would handle passengers next season, he said.
''Private tour operators' vehicles will not ever be allowed
back on the wharf ... everything else is on the table.''
While some operators said revenues were well down this season
- they believed because they could not directly market their
services to passengers on the wharf - others commented they
had a better-than-usual season.
Suggestions from operators and retailers at the meeting for a
better way of doing things ranged from staff making pitches
to passengers from cardboard booths to businesses using
interactive digital displays to promote their wares.
All would be considered by the Cruise Ship Action Group in
developing a plan for next season, Mr Brown said.
That plan would be brought back to those involved in the
industry in late May for endorsement, he said.
Mr Brown said businesses had to heed University of Otago
marketing lecturer Dr James Henry's findings from the season
which showed only 3% of cruise ship passengers, or 60 to 100
people, had not made a tour booking before getting off the
Dr Henry said 73% of passengers looked for activities in
Dunedin before they began their cruise and 23% once they had
If a Dunedin operator did not appear on internet review or
search sites Trip Adviser or Google or was not a cruise
ship-pushed tour, they would probably not be in business, he
''[Passengers] check out how you rate and if you rate poorly
they'll not go any further - it's three hits, then they make
Council iSite manager Louise Van de Vlierd said there had
been a large increase in people booking before they got off
the ship, so not as many needed the help of iSite as
The extra investment made to be at Port Chalmers did not have
the turnover to match, she said.
New Zealand Transport Agency journey manager Graeme Hall
called for a small group of operators to be formed to help
the agency develop an incident plan to be used when
unexpected events occurred on State Highway 88, such as the
roadworks which delayed traffic in December.