A $10 million solution has been found for mooring giant cruise ships such as Ovation of the Seas at Queens Wharf in Auckland.
The 348m Ovation of the Seas has visited Auckland twice this summer - and twice had to moor in the Waitemata and ferry passengers ashore because it is too long to tie up at Queens Wharf and other mooring berths in the harbour.
An earlier proposal for a mooring system 75m off the end of Queens Wharf to tie up giant cruise ships has been replaced by a less intrusive system at the end of the wharf following a rethink ordered by Mayor Phil Goff.
Auckland Council's planning committee is likely to approve the mooring dolphin at the end of Queens Wharf tomorrow, subject to harbourmaster sign-off and a final safety audit, says committee chairman Chris Darby.
A dolphin is a mooring point connected to the seabed.
The proposed dolphin at the end of Queens Wharf is estimated to cost up to $10 million and paid for by Auckland Council. The cost will be recovered over time through cruise ship passenger levies imposed and collected by Ports of Auckland.
There is an urgent need to cater for bigger cruise ships, says a paper prepared for the committee.
The growing cruise industry provides significant benefits to the Auckland economy of $220 million a year and nearly 4000 jobs. Cruise ship visits have grown from 40 in 2006 to 104 in 2016. Passenger numbers have increased from 60,000 to 220,000 in the same period.
If the inner mooring dolphin is proven acceptable - and council staff expect to confirm this in the next few weeks - it could be built for the 2018/2019 cruise season.
The proposal has had input from council, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, Panuku Development Auckland and the Ports of Auckland.
The council considered a number of mooring options, including sea anchors with floating buoys, vacuum units along the wharf to hold ships in place, extending Queens Wharf, a dolphin structure off the wharf with and without a gangway and the preferred option of a dolphin at the end of the wharf.