THE Broome channel optimisation project is due to kick off in mid-2019 with a dredging program aimed at improving access in time for the 2019 cruise season.

The dredging program is to allow 24-hour access for cruise ships, which currently need to berth at irregular hours due to navigational hazards.

The Western Australia state government committed an extra $8m to the channel optimisation project after recent geotechnical assessments that showed a higher density and volume of rock would need to be dredged.

The dredging is scheduled to commence mid-2019 as an outcome of negotiations with the dredge contractor and to coincide with the mobilisation of dredging equipment for a project in Port Hedland.

WA transport minister Rita Saffioti said the original funding commitment was increased to ensure the best possible outcome for shipping accessibility arising from the dredging project.

“Providing unrestricted cruise ship access to Broome, along with the creation of cheaper airfares from Perth to Broome, is creating real opportunities for more people to visit the Kimberley,” she said.

“Cruise liners are eager to include Broome on their itineraries and the local benefits are obvious – Carnival alone contributes about $32m in economic benefits by visiting places like Broome, Albany, Busselton and Geraldton.”

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State regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan added that cruise tourism provides an economic boost to regional communities.

“Broome is the pearl of WA’s north, and our government is running at every opportunity to drive tourism to the town,” she said.

And, tourism minister Paul Papalia added that the cruise sector is a vital part of the tourism industry for the state.

“When Carnival stopped homeporting in Western Australia because of some port issues, we acted swiftly to rectify the problems at Geraldton and Fremantle ports and, most importantly, dredge the Broome port in time for the 2019 cruise season,” he said.

“Princess Cruises responded with the biggest investment a cruise brand has ever made in this state, announcing it would homeport the Sun Princess superliner in Fremantle for a record 141 days in 2019-20.”

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