Wollongong tourism bosses are pushing for Port Kembla to be in the running to help solve the cruise ship crush crisis which faces Sydney harbour.
The NSW Government last week ditched a plan for a new mega-terminal at Yarra Bay, next to the heavy shipping berths at Port Botany, after a community campaign against the proposal.
But with cruise demand almost back to its pre-COVID heights, the Overseas Passenger Terminal reaching capacity and the largest ships unable to pass under the Sydney Harbour Bridge to White Bay, another option is needed.
Port Kembla could be the answer, Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said, and should be strongly considered as a pickup and alighting point for Sydney.
He said the warm welcome and proximity to the state capital made Kembla a natural contender.
"Port Kembla is perfectly positioned to deliver this growth given our relative proximity to Sydney, a deepwater port with potential for expansion and a supportive local community with a proven track record of supporting the cruise industry," Mr Sleigh said.
"When Radiance of the Seas marked the maiden voyage of a cruise ship to Wollongong in 2016, thousands of locals lined the foreshore to be part of history.
"Every ship which has visited since has felt the warmth of the Wollongong welcome and enjoyed world class experiences all along the South Coast."
Read more: Yarra Bay cruise terminal dead in the water
The navy base at Garden Island in Sydney is also in contention, an intriguing swap prospect given Port Kembla is under consideration for a naval base to berth nuclear submarines.
Mr Sleigh said Port Kembla should become a domestic "turnaround" port for Sydney, meaning passengers embark and alight here.
"In order to increase capacity in the Sydney market, Port Kembla would need to facilitate turnarounds of cruise ships, meaning that guests begin and end their cruise experience in Port Kembla," he said.
"Becoming a turnaround port would mean anywhere between 3000 to 5000 people would be transiting through Wollongong on every visit, there is no business which doesn't benefit from a rise in visitor numbers and this would be on a level we have not seen before."
In other tourism news, Wollongong fell short to the top tourist towns which were named by the NSW Tourism Industry Council at a conference in Sydney on Tuesday.
Newcastle was given the gold award for the top tourism town (population over 5000) with Ulladulla in second place and Wollongong taking the bronze.
The best small tourism town award was Berry, which drew praise for its restaurants, vineyards, shopping and friendly welcome.
Huskisson won the award for the top "tiny town" destination, hailed as a destination for food lovers and adventure tourists.
Newcastle, the industry council said, apparently has "a vibrant culture, rich heritage and electric atmosphere, surrounded by stunning coastline" and surf beaches.