Friday, 6 November 2009

That Ship Shed again

I see that TEL are at it again - spruiking the benefits of tax-payers building a fancy shed for any cruise ship types who may be sailing past.

"Up to" 30 cruise ships and "up to" 40 military ships will berth here every year we are told - if a pretty enough shed is built. I love the use of "up to" in such statements - it really means they have absolutely no idea of how many would actually berth.

I can understand that possibly more military ships might pull up here if more berthing space was available in the Port. This is a military town and all of the major manoeuvres held in Queensland in some way involve the military establishment here, and anyway the boys and girls prefer to play with their own types when on leave. Of course, whether the town has a port-side shed or not has nothing to do with whether such ships stop here - all they need is a berth.

TEL would have us believe that the presence of a shed will have everything to do with whether the cruise ships stop here or not. Again, the real issue of course is whether such ships have a guaranteed berth or not – the shed just provides somewhere out of the sun while disembarking. Even if such a berth is available, my understanding is that there are no guarantees that any ship will use it – it really depends on the weather, schedules and where the best sunset will be that night.

TEL do have one thing right however – whether any of these ships ever return to the town will depend on their experience when here. Townsville simply cannot compete with Cairns for tourist shopping experiences or the Whitsundays for porthole views – if we could we’d already be a tourism based economy which thankfully we’re not (See DS Economic’s report on the state if the Cairns economy).

If an extra berth reserved for cruise ships and military types were really a profitable venture, the Port Authority would have built one years ago – with the same confidence they and Sugar Terminals Limited had when they built the new sugar shed a few years back.

It strikes me that TEL would do a lot better to look at how we can get major ships to stop here to replenish their larders by for example taking on fresh fruit and veg from the Burdekin rather than entering into “the best shed” competitions with real tourist destinations in Queensland in the hope that we can attract passing souvenir shoppers.

Finally – TEL demonstrate their real confidence in the town when, in the same article, they announce that they’ve engaged a Brisbane based mob (EC3 Global) to prepare local businesses for the expected onslaught of fat American tourists looking for a souvenir experience! In fact, it seems that local consulting firms were never given a chance to even bid for the work as the tender was never advertised!

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