Fine could force operator to quit

One of Broome's biggest tourism operators believes it will have to quit the town after being threatened with a 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 during the dangerous weather period from November to the end of April.

Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises director Jeff Ralston has decided to make a last-ditch stand against the Broome Port Authority in a desperate bid to keep his business in town, where it has been for past 18 years.

Mr Ralston's wife, Lynne, was served a notice by hand at the family residence in Broome in December ordering removal of the 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 remove it and charge the owners without taking responsibility for damage to the vessel.

Mr Ralston said he has 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 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."

A spokesman for the Broome Port Authority said it had taken action because Mr Ralston had taken it upon himself to moor near Streeter's Jetty without permission.

The authority believed an electrical cable running from Mr Ralston's office next to the vessel presented 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 spokesman 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 put a mooring in, and gains the permission from the authority. He (Mr Ralston) has not done this."

'We are a small business battling to survive in a tough economic climate.'" Boat operator *Jeff Ralston *

The West Australian

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