John Bell at Gladstone Yacht Club. Picture Kym Smith
John Bell at Gladstone Yacht Club. Picture Kym Smith

COVID cruise ship concerns for Gladstone’s new terminal

CONCERNS have been raised about the potential of a COVID-19 outbreak in Gladstone from passengers using the new cruise ship terminal at East Shores.

Three cruise ships carrying almost 8000 passengers and staff visited, or were scheduled to stop at Gladstone, between January 30 and March 19.

With more cruise ships due in the near future, Adviser to former Victorian Tourism Minister Digby Crozier and former shipping manager, Gladstone resident John Bell, said a contingency plan should be released for public debate to ease any concerns of residents.

“There needs to be a published, detailed plan of how to cope with the potential health risk of thousands of people coming ashore, who may or may not be contagious with coronavirus,” he said.

“I have suggested this on the Gladstone Open Discussion Facebook page and the deputy mayor said everything has been organised.

“So where is it?

“There needs to be community education and discussion about the plan.”

The cruise terminal won’t be a massive tourism boost, some people think, Mr Bell said.

“Cruise ship passengers are not the answer to a maiden’s prayers for economic development or business development in Gladstone,” he said.

“Only nickel and dime tourism benefits from this unfortunately expensive white elephant, at ratepayers expense.

“Unlike containers or bulk, passengers are non paying freight and they may not return as they’ve ticked the box of visiting Gladstone.

“They flock ashore and buy cheap souvenirs before returning for free meals on the ship.”

Big dollar tourism for the region will be generated in other ways, he says.

“Genuine tourism development will come from longer stays, from passengers on planes and those arriving in vehicles, who spend a week or more in the region,” Mr Bell said.

“I don’t envy the CEO of the ports authority and the Queensland Health Minister, who are very responsible individuals, but face this problem to protect us.”

Mr Bell said Gladstone’s health infrastructure would be found wanting.

“I have total confidence in Gladstone’s city fathers and the health department to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in Gladstone, especially because there are no facilities to cope,” he said.

“Glenn Butcher’s initiative to buy the Mater Hospital paves the way for upgrading limited crisis medical facilities to help cope.

“But do we allow passengers to come ashore who’ve been tested and risk the possibility that they will test positive in the future, potentially in a day or two.

“Or do we wait until there is a vaccine, and compulsory vaccination of passengers before coming ashore.”

Holland America Line cruise ship MS Maasdam docked in Gladstone on November 19, 2019. Also pictured is construction site of East Shores stage 1B.
Holland America Line cruise ship MS Maasdam docked in Gladstone on November 19, 2019. Also pictured is construction site of East Shores stage 1B.

Gladstone Ports Corporation said the safety of its workers and the wider community was its top priority.

“GPC acts on the latest advice from Maritime Safety Queensland, Queensland Health and federal authorities in relation to acceptance of vessels into Port; are constantly reviewing the COVID-19 situation with respect to the maritime industry across Queensland,” GPC said in a statement.

“This is a dynamic situation and GPC is ready to respond to updated requirements for vessels arriving as the need arises.

“MSQ has been in extensive consultation with stakeholders and will continue to query vessels prior to pilot boarding to confirm the vessel’s last port, departure time and presences of any COVID-19 symptoms.”

Currently, cruise ships are restricted from entering Queensland waters under the public health direction.

“A new cruise terminal is set to be unveiled as part of the new multi-million-dollar East Shores development later this year and we look forward to seeing local tourism flourish when restrictions ease and it is safe to welcome interstate visitors once again,” GPC said.

“GPC’s East Shores precinct will provide a world-class recreational hub for people to meet, relax, exercise and have fun, in addition to the 43 hectares of existing space at the nearby Gladstone Marina and Spinnaker Park.

“GPC continues to monitor the situation and are in continuous liaison with State and Federal agencies, including chief medical officers and Australian Bio Security advices.”