The first of three new Emerald-class ferries has entered service on the F1 Manly to Circular Quay route.

The three new ferries have been named after Middle Harbour beaches, Fairlight, Clontarf and Balmoral. The MV Fairlight is the first of the three to enter service as the older Freshwater-class vessels are retired from daily commuter service.

Minister for Transport and Roads Rob Stokes said the new vessel had met strict safety standards, completing successful on water testing ahead of its introduction to service.

Rob Stokes

Rob Stokes

“The Generation 2 Emerald-class ferries are purpose built to operate in heavy swells, are fully accessible, have significantly reduced carbon emissions and are cheaper to run than our older vessels.

“The new Emerald-class ferries, along with ten new River Class vessels, were built by Australian shipbuilder Birdon, with all design work undertaken in Australia. Throughout the design and build of these ferries there‚Äôs been a strong focus on Aussie involvement, with 70 percent of the total program of work benefitting local suppliers and creating local jobs,” said Minister Stokes.

The construction of the Emerald-class ferries was subject to controversy, with the vessels hulls built in China, and the engines also fitted there. Former Transport Minister Andrew Constance said this was necessary because the vessels could not be delivered into service on time if they were built in Australia.

Shipbuilder Birdon has insisted that the majority of the vessels design and construction is Australian however, with the incomplete vessels sent to Australia last year to be fitted out at their Port Macquarie base.

“Although the ferries have been partially constructed offshore, Birdon is committed to supporting and including Australian industry in all projects we work on. This is why the percentage of Australian content for these ferries is in excess of 70 percent.

“Birdon has ensured that all design, procurement, engineering, and project management has happened from our Port Macquarie head office in regional NSW,” said a Birdon statement.

The statement added that all major components such as engines, propulsion train and electronic equipment have been sourced in Australia.

The Emerald-class ferries have a capacity of 400 passengers in comparison to over 1,000 for the Freshwater-class vessels they are replacing. However, the new ferries will make the trip around 10 minutes faster with more frequent services at peak times.

Proponents of the new vessels say they are less polluting and deliver a better service to commuters, who had been voting with their feet even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two of the iconic Freshwater-class ferries, the MV Freshwater and MV Collaroy, are being retained for weekend and public holiday service.

James Griffin

James Griffin

Member for Manly James Griffin said the remaining two Emerald-class ferries, the MV Clontarf and the MV Balmoral, will be introduced progressively over the coming weeks.

“The introduction of the new Emerald-class ferries will allow for more weekly services to be added to the busy F1 route and will ensure there’s plenty of capacity to meet demand, particularly over Manly’s busy summer months.

“More frequent services between Manly and Circular Quay will be a welcome boost for our visitor economy as domestic and international travel resumes this summer,” said Mr Griffin.

Images and video: Transport for NSW

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