One of the world’s biggest and most luxurious cruise liners has dropped anchor in Batemans Bay, bringing with it plenty of wealthy passengers.
But some local environmentalists fear the ship, The World, could damage the fragile ecosystem of Batemans Marine Park.
The World boasts ”privileged access to the best in travel” and charges accordingly. The cost of one of its 165 apartments ranges from $1300 to $4750 a night. The 200-metre ship, registered in the Bahamas, arrived in Eden on Sunday before sailing to Batemans Bay on Monday. It is due in Jervis Bay, which is also a delicate marine park, tomorrow.
The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change has approved the visit.
”This visit has been planned for more than a year and meets marine park regulations,” a department spokeswoman said. ”The ship has world’s best-practice environment standards and we believe there are minimal environmental risks.”
But environmentalists fear marine pests can attach themselves to the hulls of vessels and infiltrate sensitive waters.
Mark Fleming, the vice-president of the Coastwatchers Association and a conservation representative on the Batemans Marine Park Authority, said he was worried about the impact on oyster breeding grounds.
”We have a significant aqua-culture industry here,” Mr Fleming said. ”We need to be concerned about the translocation of marine pests, as they can have a major impact.”
One such pest, the North Pacific sea star, had migrated to Tasmania, then Port Phillip Bay and was moving along the Victorian coast towards NSW, he said.
Mr Fleming was even concerned about yachts returning to the South Coast from Tasmania after competing in the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race.
”They worry me even more than this vessel [The World] and we need to raise awareness of this issue,” he said.
Julia Mayo-Ramsay, a South Coast environmental lawyer and expert in marine law, said deep-hulled vessels posed a threat to the sea grasses in Batemans Bay and Jervis Bay. ”When you have to anchor a ship of this size, there is always some risk,” Ms Mayo-Ramsay said.
The tourism authority in Eurobodalla Shire has welcomed the arrival of The World and has arranged an extensive program for its passengers, including trips to local attractions such as Mogo Village, the Original Gold Rush Company and Mogo Zoo, and a cruise on the Clyde River, where much of the oyster industry is centred.