Two Australian businesses, one a provider of on board adventure experiences and the other a marine engineering company working with cruise lines, today told of the devastating impact that the suspension of cruising has had on the supplier community.
John Sharpe, whose Brisbane-based company, Riverlife, operates the P&OEdge adventure park attractions on P&O Cruises Australia ships, said he has had to borrow nearly a million dollars to enable the business to survive the pandemic.
Graeme Blackman, managing director of Sydney-based Inter Marine, a Mortdale company that has provided services to the cruise industry since P&O’s Fairstar in the 1990s, said turnover plunged dramatically after cruise ships were sent away from Australia.
“It has been quite devastating after 40 years in the maritime industry,” Mr Blackman said. “In 2019-20, our gross turnover was $6.5 million but to date our turnover is just over $1 million from our land-based work so, without any shipping, we have dropped by approximately 80 per cent overall.
“Unfortunately, we had to let a number of our staff go and we are down to the bare minimum at the moment just trying to survive until the ships come back. We have lost six permanent people.
“We also rely heavily on a lot of subcontractors who have been with us for 20 to 25 years, they have had no business whatsoever, and they’ve had to seek other work. There has also been an impact on our local suppliers of hardware, retail and specialist equipment who are part of our ‘domino effect.’”
Mr Blackman is helping to make Australia’s federal and state leaders aware of the impact of the suspension of cruising on suppliers and their workforces via the current ReadySetSail campaign -- (www.ReadySetSail.com.au) -- initiated by industry body, Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA).
At Riverlife, John Sharpe also says that the pandemic has had a big effect on his tourism-related business. “Fortunately, 75 to 80 per cent of our business is again up and running, however, with the pause in cruising, there is as yet no such positive outcome for P&OEdge and the 18 onboard staff who operated the activities,” Mr Sharpe said.
“The P&OEdge team is champing at the bit to get back on board the ships. Our people have split up across the business and some are picking up jobs where they can. We had to borrow close to a million dollars to keep our business going including a couple of hundred thousand dollars to support P&OEdge.”
President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia, Sture Myrmell, said the two business case studies underlined the importance of federal and state governments agreeing to a pathway for the resumption of cruising in a domestic ‘cruise bubble’.
“The cruise industry’s annual contribution of $5 billion to economic activity supporting more than 18,000 jobs has gone with cruising having been suspended for more than a year,” Mr Myrmell said.
“We continue to support CLIA Australasia’s efforts with government authorities to establish a pathway for the careful restart of domestic cruising. The experience of our suppliers confirms the impact of the pandemic on the travel and tourism sector.”
John Sharpe echoed Graeme Blackman’s hopes for the return of cruising to help rebuild their businesses and restore lost jobs. “We will now need to rebuild P&OEdge on Pacific Explorer and the ships being added to the P&O fleet,” Mr Sharpe said.
“It’s almost like starting the P&OEdge business all over again. I am very confident that when it does come back, P&OEdge will come back very strongly. We are very excited about that. It’s just that at this stage we are in a holding pattern.”
Caption: Graeme Blackman (left) and Ross DiBartolo of Mortdale marine engineering firm, Inter-Marine, with the container-housed mobile workshop used for cruise ship dry docks.