Plans to dredge a wharf near Picton will allow megaliners to visit Marlborough before the end of the year.
Port Marlborough wants to remove nearly 20,000 cubic metres of seabed material from a section of the wharf at Shakespeare Bay.
Port Marlborough chief executive Ian McNabb said the dredging was needed to increase the berthing capacity of the wharf, which was unable to accommodate ships longer than 320 metres.
Increasing the wharf’s berthing capacity would allow megaliner Ovation of the Seas to make its maiden voyage to Shakespeare Bay.
The liner, and its 5000 passengers, was scheduled to dock on Christmas Eve for a 13-hour stopover, with a further two calls to Marlborough in the 2016-17 cruise season.
Last year’s cruise season contributed $9.8 million to the regional economy and this was estimated to increase to $13.6m this season, according to Cruise New Zealand.
Waimahara Wharf at Shakespeare Bay had 25 cruise ships booked this year.
Ten Royal Caribbean Cruise Line visits to Picton in the 2015-2016 season generated substantial economic activity, McNabb said.
“Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines are the second largest international cruise company and are a key party in the Picton cruise market,” McNabb said.
Ovation of the Seas was the world’s newest cruise ship and the latest Quantum class cruise liner to be launched by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
It made its debut in the English port of Southampton earlier this week.
Royal Carribean Cruise Lines indicated the deployment of the Quantum class boats into Picton might be followed by the Oasis class.
“Oasis class vessels are the largest cruise ships in the world at 360 metres. The development of capacity to berth such larger cruise ships at Shakespeare Bay will enable the economic benefits of the cruise industry to continue to be realised. In this regard, the proposed dredging project has been designed in a manner that, if approved, will be sufficient to accommodate both Quantum and Oasis class vessels.”
Ovation of the Seas would be packed with the latest innovations including a robotic barman that could mix drinks, a skydiving and surfing simulator, bumper cars, a roller rink, circus school and floating DJ booth.
The state-of-the-art liner had 18 restaurants including Jamie’s Italian by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
A jewel-shaped glass capsule that rose 90 metres above sea level, providing 360-degree views from high above the ship, was also included.
The total cost of dredging and construction of new, bigger, stronger bollards to allow the larger cruise liners to tie up to the wharf would cost between $1m and $2m.
“Bigger cruise ships pose challenges for everybody. Years ago 2000 passengers were considered big. Now we are dealing with 5000 passengers,” McNabb said.
The wharf was last dredged was when it was built in 1999.
If the resource consent was granted the dredged material would be taken by trucks to the port’s clean fill site.
McNabb said they had no significant future purpose for the dredged material.
An environmental assessment by the Cawthron Institute found adverse environmental effects of dredging would be “no more than minor” on the water quality and ecosystems.
Dredging would disturb aquatic habitats located on the seabed but none of the habitats were ecologically significant, Cawthron said.
It was hoped dredging would be completed in time to provide cruise ship berthing capacity for the coming cruise season.