Sydney ferry retired amid backlash

·2-min read

After 40 years and almost three million kilometres, the Queenscliff ferry has crossed Sydney Harbour from Manly to Circular Quay for the last time.

At the helm of her last passenger service on Wednesday was Austin Hart, whose father Ron was the ferry master who led her first in July 1983.

The Queenscliff is one of four Manly ferries being pushed out of daily service to make way for smaller, faster vessels.

Two of the four Freshwater ferries will continue running next year, but only on weekends and public holidays.

Mr Hart told reporters on board the final voyage he could see why people were protesting to keep the iconic ferries.

"I don't agree entirely that they should go," he said.

The ferries had always performed well against the waters of the Heads, Mr Hart said, and the size of the boat made the atmosphere "so much better than it would otherwise be".

The Maritime Union of Australia calls the move to retire a vessel with "plenty of life left" a disgrace.

"The three Emerald Class ferries that are supposed to replace the Manly ferries, still have not had all of their safety issues resolved," the union's Paul Garrett said.

"Despite being in Australian waters since the start of the year, there has been a significant question mark over whether they can even handle the swell going across the Heads."

A parliamentary petition with more than 20,000 signatures was also tabled in February decrying the decision, and Labor transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen is calling for new Transport Minister Rob Stokes to overturn it.

"Mothballing one of our iconic Manly ferries will lead to service cancellations, delays and reduced capacity right at the start of the service's summer peak," she said in a statement.

"The replacement Emerald Class ferries have been in Sydney for more than nine months but they are yet to carry a single passenger."

The chief operations officer for Transport for NSW, Howard Collins, said the Queenscliff would not be sent straight to the scrap heap.

But he welcomed approaches from anyone with the money and right ideas to give it new life.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could find another use for it. It would be fantastic," he said.

He said the decision to retire two of the boats was a compromise between what commuters wanted and the community's attachment.

"Forty years is a great innings for a ferry," he said.

The new Manly ferries are expected to make their debut in November.

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