The Government of Western Australia is considering the sale by long term lease of the Port of Fremantle. Holman Fenwick Willan has worked with the Port of Rotterdam, and others, in relation to this purchase. During the due diligence enquiries which were conducted on the port and its operation, it became apparent that various stakeholders with an interest in the operations of the Port of Fremantle are keen to see a new cruise passenger terminal at Victoria Quay in the Inner Harbour as cruise traffic steadily grows in Western Australia.

The City of Fremantle plans to seek State Government support for the redevelopment of the passenger terminal. How cruise passengers arrive in the old Fremantle town, finding their way through the historic village precincts and connection to the Fremantle metro rail station taking passengers to Perth are all areas for detailed consideration.

Improvements to the overall amenity of the port and the surrounding neighbourhood are an important consideration in the privatisation of the port. The Inner Harbour is planned to remain an active, working container port with container terminals on North Quay. The passenger terminal will remain on the south side of the port at Victoria Quay. It is intended that some bulk cargoes such as minerals and agricultural trades will progressively move from the Inner Harbour to new terminals in the Outer Harbour some 25 kilometres to the South at the Kwinana Bulk Terminal in Cockburn Sound.

The privatisation will be among the largest undertaken in Western Australia and is expected to raise more than AUS$2 billion. However, the passage of the sale legislation through the Western Australian Parliament, has been delayed. This appears to be due to concerns raised by farmers and minerals exporters regarding wharfage rates and access terms and conditions following the privatisation. As a result, the government is expected to apply conditions to the sale limiting the buyer’s opportunity to increase charges. Port charges for passenger cruising is expected to continue to enjoy a subsidy however the extent of that subsidy and how it will be delivered once the port is privatised is yet to be clarified.

The extent of port development and investment by new owners will follow the demand for and use of the new facilities. Passenger cruising seems to be increasing and very well supported with Fremantle being popular for passengers seeking to visit the Abrolhos Islands, Shark Bay and the pristine coasts of north west Western Australia.

The Australian cruise industry passed a major milestone in 2014 when for the first time passenger numbers exceeded one million in a calendar year. A total of 1,003,256 Australians cruised, representing a surge of 20.4% on the previous year’s record of 833,348. The increase of almost 170,000 passengers is the largest jump in annual real numbers since the Cruise Industry Source Market Report was first compiled in 2002. (CRUISE INDUSTRY SOURCE MARKET REPORT Australia 2014).

The Western Australian Government, through Tourism WA, recently commissioned a study into the Passenger Cruising industry. The results show that mega cruise ship passengers typically lived outside of Western Australia, travelled as a couple and were aged 60 years or over. The majority of cruise passengers (92%) were experienced in cruising, having taken at least one other cruise before, particularly international passengers (96%). International passengers were predominately from the USA (33%) and UK (30%).

The inclusion of the specific Western Australian destination had some impact on passengers’ decisions to book the cruise, predominately those cruise ships visiting Broome. The main factor driving the decision to visit was the general appeal and ‘always wanting to visit the destination’. Passengers seek information about port destinations at multiple times – once on shore, prior to, and (most commonly) during the cruise.

Overall, the performance of ports in catering to passengers’ needs was consistent across WA ports, with performance rated as ‘high’ across all ports and Fremantle and Geraldton rated the highest. Personal safety and security was an important factor, however, other influential factors that can improve the overall experience for passengers are the signage, availability of information, and facilities at the port (i.e. seating, shopping/food/drink options). Based on feedback from respondents, Fremantle was the strongest performer on the majority of port features. (This summary is extracted from research conducted by TRA and Tourism WA in partnership with Metrix Consulting. For the full Strategic Regional Report, please email tourism.research@ret.gov.au.).