A novel solution is being explored to berth giant cruise ships like Ovation of the Seas at Queens Wharf in Auckland.
The solution involves the new generation of mega cruise ships coming stern in so ropes from the curve of the bow can reach a mooring dolphin underneath the end of the wharf.
It comes as different arms of Auckland Council and Ports of Auckland scramble for an answer to cruise ships like the 348m Ovation of Seas anchoring in the harbour in December and ferrying passengers on tenders to the Viaduct.
We just want somewhere to tie the ships up.
Cruise New Zealand executive officer Kevin O'Sullivan said something needs to be done and done fairly quickly.
"We just want somewhere to tie the ships up," he said.
The operator of the Ocean of the Seas, Royal Caribbean, still wants to come to Auckland and had made future bookings, said O'Sullivan.
In December, O'Sullivan said the lack of infrastructure has been cited by P&O as one of the reasons for deferring the building of a bigger ship for the Australia and New Zealand cruise market.
Talk of a solution for Queens Wharf not being in place until the 2018-2019 cruise season was a problem, said O'Sullivan, who would like to think something would be ready for the 2017/18 season.
Mayor Phil Goff asked council to explore other options after plans last year for a $10 million to $12 million mooring dolphin connected to Queens Wharf by a 3.5m walkway raised fears about pouring more concrete into the Waitemata Harbour.
The Herald understands four options are being considered - the mooring dolphin connected by a walkway, the mooring dolphin without the walkway, a floating buoy similar to a dolphin, and a dolphin sitting underneath the end of Queens Wharf.
The floating buoy is believed to be the most logistically difficult and the previous plan for a dolphin connected by a 3.5m wide walkway is seen as environmentally intrusive and politically difficult.
Coming stern in raises questions about lining up with the gangways at the cruise ship terminal at Shed 10 and provisioning ships from the Quay St end of the wharf.
Ports of Auckland has favoured the dolphin option connected to the wharf, with a spokesman saying all it needed is a service gangway to allow safe access.
"We commissioned an independent health and safety report on the various options for providing access to the dolphin and we have given the report to council to help them make a decision," the spokesman said.
Stop Stealing Our Harbour spokesman Michael Goldwater said the protest group wanted a win-win solution for the cruise ships to moor without damaging the harbour.
The buoy option appealed to Goldwater in that it could be connected to the harbour floor for the few visits by mega cruise ships and removed after they left port.
Stop Stealing Our Harbour supports Goff's long-term idea of making the city's longest wharf, Wynyard Wharf, the main cruise ship terminal once the oil tanks are removed from Wynyard Pt.
Goff confirmed earlier comments he favoured the dolphin option if it was the best option, but opposed the suggestion of a wharf structure to join the dolphin to land, saying that was too environmentally intrusive.
Funding the dolphin would be paid for by Ports of Auckland and recovered by charges made to the ships, a plan which, given the value of the industry, was viable, Goff said.
The options will be part of a report going to council's planning committee next month. Once a decision is made, Panuku Development Auckland will lodge a resource consent.
Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development(Ateed) says there is a real risk that if no short-term action is taken, that Auckland and New Zealand will be left off cruise itineraries for larger ships.
"Then we could lose the region's position as passenger hub for exchange and provisioning, which would mean losing valuable contributions to our economy," said Ateed visitor and external relations general manager Steve Armitage.
The economic benefit of the cruise industry to Auckland is about $200 million each season.