Sydney cruise terminal capacity

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Sydney cruise terminal capacity

Berthing capacity for cruise ships in Sydney
Potential investment options (Stage 2)
Sydney, NSW
Fast-growing cities
National Connectivity
Problem/Opportunity timeframe
Medium term (5-10 years)
Proposed By
NSW Government
Date added to the IPL
17 February 2019


There is insufficient berthing capacity for large cruise ships at Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal, particularly during the peak cruising season around the summer period. While there is capacity at the White Bay Terminal, it does not cater for the industry’s shift towards larger ships, which cannot fit under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

With 1.3 million Australian passengers in 2016, the number of Australian ocean cruise passengers has more than quadrupled across Australia since 2008, and almost doubled in the past five years. The amount of tourism expenditure from cruise ship activity in Australia was $2.7 billion in 2016–17, of which approximately 58% of the economic impact was in New South Wales and primarily in Sydney.

A lack of capacity at Sydney’s cruise ship terminals will impact on the growth of the Australian tourism industry, with some cruises citing the Sydney capacity constraint as 
the reason for not visiting Australia in the 2018–19 season.

COVID-19 has impacted on the demand for cruising across the world, and has potentially delayed the timing of terminal capacity constraints in Sydney.

Potential options

Cruise terminal capacity constraints could be addressed through different proposals:

  • maximising the capacity of existing terminals by optimising scheduling, operations and pricing
  • modifying existing non-passenger terminals to allow cruise ship usage
  • developing new cruise terminals.

In line with the commitment outlined in the New South Wales Government’s Cruise Development Plan, a Strategic Business Case was completed. It assessed the high-level viability of potential cruise terminal sites. In September 2019, the NSW Government started developing a detailed business case for the project. This has been put on hold for up to 18 months, given that the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the cruise industry are yet to be determined.

Next steps

Proponent to complete business case development (Stage 3 of Infrastructure Australia’s Assessment Framework).