The number of cruise ship visits to Sydney Harbour this year will increase dramatically.

Sydney Ports Corporation Chief Executive Officer Grant Gilfillan said there would be 214 vessel visits to Sydney this financial year compared to 150 last year, representing a 43 per cent increase.

“The cruise industry in Sydney is in an extraordinary growth phase and it doesn’t look like slowing down,” Mr Gilfillan said.

“In fact 264 ship visits have already been booked for the following cruise season in 2012/13.”

Officially launching the 2011/12 cruise season today, Mr Gilfillan said that the Australian cruise industry was now the fastest growing segment of the tourism market, with Australian passenger numbers increasing by 27 percent in 2010.

Sydney Harbour is Australia's premier cruise ship destination and the only city in Australia with two dedicated cruise passenger terminals.

The cruise industry has consistently reaffirmed Sydney's reputation as a world leading cruise destination.    

This season, an additional six ships will make their maiden visits to Sydney.

They are Discovery, Costa Deliziosa, Radiance of the Seas, Celebrity Century, Zaandam and Sea Princess.

A plaque commemorating Radiance of the Seas deployment to Sydney was presented today by Sydney Ports.

February 2012 will be the high point of the cruise season, with a new record of 33 ship visits, compared to 27 for February 2011.

Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth will also berth at the Overseas Passenger Terminal on 28 February 2012.

Mr Gilfillan said that Sydney Ports would continue to work with the cruise industry to provide the right services and infrastructure to support the growth in cruise shipping.

“Sydney Ports will also undertake a significant upgrade of services and infrastructure needs at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay over the next couple of years.

“In addition, following an exhaustive consultation and planning stage, work will also begin on the new $57 million terminal at White Bay, which will replace the temporary Wharf 5 terminal at Barangaroo,” Mr Gilfillan said.

“The NSW Government welcomes the contribution being made to this State’s economy by the cruise industry.

“And we welcome the thousands of cruise passengers who are about to experience the excitement of entering the world’s finest harbour,” he said.