One of Broome’s biggest tourism operators says it will have to quit the town after being threatened with a massive fine over where it moors its boat for shelter during the cyclone season.
The Kimberley Quest II has been tied up among the mangroves in Chinatown since mid-November because there are no other safe anchorages in the dangerous weather period from November to April 30.
Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises director Jeff Ralston has decided to make a last-ditch stand against Broome Port Authority to keep his business in town, where it has been for the past 18 years.
Mr Ralston’s wife, Lynne, was served a notice by hand at the family home in Broome in December ordering removal of the luxurious 120-tonne cruise boat or face a fine of up to $20,000.
The document said that if it was not moved, Broome Port Authority would shift it and charge the owners without taking responsibility for damage to the vessel.
Mr Ralston said he had been leaving his boat in the same location for the past two years without a problem.
He has written to Transport Minister Troy Buswell and the Broome Port Authority board about the issue.
“We are a small tourism business battling to survive in a tough economic climate,” he said.
“The cyclone anchorage for boats in Broome has been in exactly the same location as where we are now. We love Broome and my family is part of Broome.
“We are not asking for government handouts or extra facilities, all we want is to be left alone to run our business like we have for the past 18 years.
“The cost to take our boat down south during the cyclone season would put our backs to the wall and leave us no option but to take our business elsewhere.”
Broome Port Authority said it had taken action because Mr Ralston had moored the cruise boat near Streeter’s Jetty without permission.
It said an electrical cable running from Mr Ralston’s office next to the vessel was a danger to the public.
“From our perspective, he has taken the boat into the mangrove area, he has not sought anyone’s permission — has just gone ahead and done it,” the authority said.
“Everyone else in town with boats comes and talks over what they want to do, whether it’s to go to a mooring or putting a mooring in, and gains the permission.
“He (Mr Ralston) has not done this. He has taken action off his own back. “He has put his boat in for the entire cyclone season in an area which is for offices and shops.”
Broome Port Authority said it sympathised with the Ralstons because the town did not have the same boating facilities as Darwin or Fremantle but the State Government was moving to address the problem.
Mr Ralston said he was entitled to go wherever the safest place was in cyclone season.
“I am not moving the boat and risking my crew and my vessel in the event of a cyclone,” he said. Mr Ralston said he had offered to put underground power and water from his office to the boat at his own cost but Broome Port Authority had not responded.The authority said it was still deciding whether it would take legal action against the Ralstons.