Napier Port has been forced to turn away "double bookings" from cruise ships wanting to berth at its docks because of increased demand from container vessels.

But the port company says it has an "absolute commitment" to help grow the region's cruise tourism industry, which has included spending millions of dollars on a dredging programme to accommodate larger liners.

In the past the port has been able to berth up to three cruise ships at one time.

But chief executive Garth Cowie said the increasing size of cruise vessels, along with significant growth in container movements through the port, was making that difficult for much of the summer cruise season.


"The opportunity to use the main container terminal berth as in the past, between December and the end of April, which coincides with our peak season, is almost non-existent.

"Accordingly some double bookings have been turned down," Mr Cowie said.

"However, we have developed an offshore mooring position, which is an alternative option for some lines."

Details around the option of having some cruise ships anchor off Ahuriri, with passengers brought ashore on tenders, were currently being developed.

Double cruise ship berthings were relatively rare this cruise season.

The port has hosted two cruise liners simultaneously on two occasions this year - once in January and once in March.

It would still be able to accommodate two cruise ships at the port simultaneously if one of them was small, Mr Cowie said.

The port was criticised this week by bus company Nimon & Sons for increasing its tariff for berthing a full-size cruise liner from $42,000 to more than $55,000.

Nimon general manager Pete Patterson said he was worried the move was discouraging cruise lines from including Napier on their itineraries for the 2015-16 season.

But Mr Cowie said the port had an absolute commitment to the continuing development of the local cruise industry.

"To suggest or imply otherwise is completely erroneous and belittles the work of many to enhance the services and capabilities of the port and wider region," he said.

The tariffs listed on the company's website were for one-off berths and the company negotiated cheaper rates with cruise lines whose ships were regular port users, Mr Cowie said.

"The port negotiates directly with the individual cruise lines and the current pricing levels reflect that very large cruise vessels, because of their overall length, now take two conventional cargo berths compared to one in earlier years."

Mr Patterson said it was concerning for the Hawke's Bay tourism industry that cruise ship visits previously booked by one line for Napier in the 2015-16 season had been cancelled with the company subsequently booking ships visits at Gisborne's Eastland Port.

Mr Cowie said he did not know the specifics of those particular bookings but there were many reasons for a cruise line to change its bookings so far in advance.

"The port at this stage can't rule out the possibility of negativity to our pricing as a potential factor," he said.

"However, it is often the cruise itself and the cruise line's positioning of the vessel in the market that influences port calls and other outcomes."

Mr Cowie said Napier Port had recently completed an extensive dredging programme to specifically cater for the ever-increasing length of cruise vessels.

"This will allow the larger vessels to manoeuvre closer to the port in the lee of the breakwater on most occasions thus widening the weather parameters and ensuring vessels can enter Napier Port without cancellations in adverse weather events," he said.

"The full dredging programme is $4.4million and is a positive sign of the port's confidence in the future of large vessels, including cruise, calling at Napier Port,"Mr Cowie said.