After 38 years in service, the ferry MV Queenscliff took its last trip from Manly Wharf this afternoon.
Around 1.30pm this afternoon (Wednesday, 13 October) as the Queenscliff arrived for its last voyage, a group of around 50 protesters met under foreboding skies at Manly Wharf to demand it be saved.
The existing Freshwater-class ferries are due to be replaced on regular commuter services by the new Emerald-class fleet that is due to start service this year.
In response to a public call by Northern Beaches Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham to save the Freshwater-class ferries, Member for Manly James Griffin MP successfully pleaded a case to the previous NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance that two of the ferries be saved.
The ferries that will continue to service the route for non-commuter services on weekends and public holidays will be the MV Freshwater and the MV Collaroy. The MV Queenscliff is being fully retired from service and took its last voyage today, farewelled by the protesters and passengers who had booked a spot on its final trip in service.
Cr Bingham, who organised today’s protest, said it was not the time to lose the old ferries from service.
“What a time to get rid of these ferries. We are left with two ferries at a time when Sydney’s coming out of COVID restrictions and poor old Manly is dying from lack of tourists. So let’s get rid of our big ferries. What a stupid idea. I’m sorry, but I’m very upset about this,” said Cr Bingham.
According to Cr Bingham, the large Freshwater-class ferries, which are not as fuel efficient as the newer Emerald-class vessels, could be converted to electric power and continue to service the route.
“We need a proper replacement plan. We need to reverse this decision now. Leave the fleet of four. Come up with a plan to have electric ferries running on the famous Manly to Sydney route. Electric ferries on the Manly to Sydney route will maintain the tourist industry, will maintain the beautiful trips they are famous for.
“The challenge that we’ve got now is we’re going to have these two large ferries operating once an hour, weekends only, supported by little fast ferries. We don’t need little fast ferries, we already have fast ferries. 4m people in 2019 chose to come to Manly on the big old ferries. They want the experience; they want the experience of having the big old ferries.
“So we are calling out today to Rob Stokes, as the new Transport Minister, please step in, save the fleet and make sure that we have the opportunity to look at the new electric fast ferries that look like our beautiful old Manly ferries,” said Cr Bingham.
Asked if she had contacted Minister Stokes to discuss the proposal for electrification, Cr Bingham said there had been no chance as he had only been in the role a week but she planned to.
Deputy Secretary of the Sydney Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia Paul Garrett joined Cr Bingham, calling on the NSW Government to reverse its decision on fleet modernisation.
“What a day it is. The iconic Manly ferry starts to get finished up today. The Queenscliff has operated for nearly four decades now. A great union built ferry that’s stood the test of time and it’s got another three or four decades left in her.
“The decision of the NSW Government is short-sighted, it’s wrong and it needs to be reversed today. What we want to see is Rob Stokes come out today and change this decision and keep the Queenscliff back on the run. At a time when society is talking about the electrification of public transport, here’s a prime opportunity to reengineer this ferry and send it back out for the next two or three decades.
“The second Emerald generation vessels have been in Australian waters now since the start of the year. We know their safety problems, we know there’s operational problems, and we know that they can’t handle the swell to Manly.
“They’re the wrong vessel for Manly. They take 400 passengers where a Manly boat takes 1,100. They’re just not going to service the people of Sydney and the tourists to this great suburb of Manly. This needs to change today. The Maritime Union of Australia is reviewing these new ferries coming in to replace the Manly boats and if they’re not safe, they won’t be worked, simple as that,” warned Mr Garrett.
This may not be the final time Sydney sees the MV Queenscliff in operation however, with Transport for NSW Chief Operations Officer Howard Collins saying the NSW Government will seek ideas on how the MV Queenscliff could be repurposed for the community.
“Many tourists and Sydneysiders alike would have fond memories from the trips they’ve taken on this iconic vessel ever since it first graced Sydney Harbour way back in July 1983.
“While its retirement will be the end of an era, it will also be exciting to see what the future holds for her. We will have more to say on this soon but priority will be given to ideas that demonstrate how this vessel can live on and continue to benefit the community in some capacity,” said Mr Collins.
With MV Narrabeen also due to be decommissioned soon, Mr Collins said he was hopeful more people could take a final ride as COVID restrictions were lifted.
“We know there is a great affection in the community for these vessels. With the planned lifting of restrictions in the coming weeks, we hope to provide opportunities for customers to be on board the MV Queenscliff’s sister ship, the MV Narrabeen, for a farewell run,” said Mr Collins.
Images: Northern Beaches Advocate, Michael Mannington
Video: Northern Beaches Advocate