Queen Mary 2; Queen Mary 2;

Cruise control

On the 15th of December, Sydney Harbour will play host to a first for Australia.

The Ovation of the Seas, the world’s second largest cruise ship, will become the largest to ever visit our shores, berthing at the Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) in Sydney’s Circular Quay for the duration of the 2016-17 summer. This will be an especially satisfying moment for me - over the last four years I’ve led a talented team at Arup that has been closely working with the Port Authority of NSW to ultimately make this visit possible. Sydney is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world, and one that has seen the number of visits more than double over the past five years. The industry has grown significantly and now contributes an estimated $1 billion each year, directly and indirectly, to the Sydney economy. Accordingly, the increase in demand has seen the size profile of visiting cruise vessels grow, a trend that is projected to continue.

The OPT was originally designed in the 1960s to accommodate vessels around half the size of those that visit now. Although some upgrades were made in the 1980s, the almost exponential growth in demand and vessel size has outpaced what these facilities were able to accommodate. The Port Authority of NSW recognised this opportunity and has committed to works to expand the wharf and terminal infrastructure in recent years.


Our involvement started in 2013, when given the challenge of designing a mooring solution for the Queen Mary 2 to berth at the OPT in under 3 months. At the time, it was the largest vessel to visit Sydney and substantially bigger than could be accommodated.

Previous visits by larger ships would have either been moored off-shore with guests shuttled into ports by smaller boats, or moored at the defence facilities at Garden Island. Each solution represented a significant impact on tourist experience for visitors hoping to explore Sydney and its many attractions.

The short timeframe to accommodate the Queen Mary 2 required a temporary design, utilising a drag anchor mooring system, restraining the ship’s bow with a line embedded in the seafloor. This solution had never been employed before and was completed just two days before the ship arrived.


Personally, I’m excited to see the opportunities this creates to further activate and celebrate our Harbour, and I hope I’m privileged enough to be involved. ”

David Dack David Dack Associate

The Ovation of the Seas is the largest cruise ship to ever visit Sydney, and the second largest in the world

The visit of the Queen Mary 2 was received with much fanfare from the public and industry alike, demonstrating the untapped potential to the Port Authority of NSW. Permanent upgrades to the wharf infrastructure were commissioned, and we have worked on their behalf since, leading the assessment and design of these works.

Queen Mary 2 Queen Mary 2

To date, the wharf has been extended to the north, totalling 60m in length; a permanent mooring dolphin has been installed in Campbell’s Cove; the fender system has been upgraded; and a major upgrade to the terminal building has enhanced passenger processing facilities and amenities. The final piece of the puzzle, the construction of a new southern mooring point, is shortly due for completion. Throughout, careful sequencing has ensured only minimal disruption to the cruise schedule.

These works culminate in the arrival of the Ovation of the Seas. The OPT facilities can now accommodate her, a ship of almost 350 metres in length and a maximum capacity of almost 5,000 passengers.

The value added to the local economy has the industry considering further avenues for growth. The port, cruise industry and other key decision makers are now turning their thoughts to options for additional berths east of the Harbour Bridge.