With the Emerald-class ferries off the Manly run due to safety concerns, calls mount to return the Freshwater ferries full-time.

The three new Emerald-class ferries have been plagued by controversy since their introduction, with plans scrapped to decommission the iconic Freshwater-class ferries they replaced. Initially one, then two, of the four Freshwater-class ferries were retained for weekend and public holiday service, which was then extended to compliment weekday commuter services.

Emerald-class Manly Ferries on teh F1 route to Circular Quay

Save the Manly Ferry Alliance committee member Sue Barsi-Wright says the new Emerald-class ferries are unsafe, and not fit-for-purpose.

Sue Barsi-Wright

Sue Barsi-Wright

“Our concern is that there are over 80 defects that haven’t been fixed, the most concerning being steering failures on all of the Emerald-class vessels. There is a neglect of safety and duty of care for crew and passengers, somebody is going to get hurt. They are unsuitable for that type of ferry run, they are not fit-for-purpose.

“They keep getting taken off the run, whether it’s problems or the swell that they are not equipped to handle. That causes a ripple effect for public transport on the whole Northern Beaches, as the buses become over capacity and people are left waiting at bus stops. Coming into the holiday period, it will also affect tourism and local business.

“We have three petitions with over 50,500 people who have electronically signed. These have been presented to Shadow Minister for Transport Jo Haylen and we are now seeking to present them to Minister for Transport David Elliott. So far, we do not have any confirmation from his office that he will meet with us to accept the petitions,” said Ms Barsi-Wright.

MV Fairlight Emerald-class Manly ferry

Sydney Ferries operator Transdev said they are looking into the most recent steering failure but believe it is unrelated to an earlier steering failure.

“The Fairlight issue from 19 November [2022] remains under investigation. Transdev’s Assets team and various independent technicians are still conducting an in-depth investigation to determine the root cause and fix the issue.

“Initial findings indicate that it is a specific electrical component within a particular switch unrelated to the previous hydraulic failure. We are confident that the issue will be rectified and endorsed by the Australian Maritime Safety Regulator (AMSA) before returning to service.

“Although the Balmoral has not experienced any issues since the Second-Generation Emerald Class fleet returned to service in October [2022], Transdev has (in consultation with our Health & Safety Representatives and Union colleagues) decided to perform a risk assessment to determine where Balmoral will be utilised.

“The risk assessment was undertaken yesterday (Tuesday 29 November) and sea trials will be carried out today. Since an issue was experienced on the Fairlight on 19 November, the Balmoral has been closely monitored and only been operating on Inner Harbour routes.

“The Clontarf is under planned warranty works due to finish in early December. The F1 Manly services are running per the usual timetable and are not expected to be impacted in summer,” said a Transdev spokesperson.

Ferries docked at Balmain

With the three Emerald-class ferries sitting in dock at Balmain (image above), Transport for NSW (TfNSW) says it is working with ferry operator Transdev to get them back into service as soon as possible.

“To provide assurance in the integrity of the fleet, TfNSW has engaged engineering firm DNV to conduct an independent investigation into the root cause of the issue, which is running concurrently with an internal investigation by Sydney Ferries operator Transdev.

“The Asset Assurance Audit will measure the fleet’s service availability and reliability and review rectification works and the return to service plan.

“The scope of the DNV audit will include data analyses, onboard inspections and workshops and include a full regulatory compliance assessment and review into the operator’s Asset Management Systems. The audit is expected to be finalised in early December,” said a TfNSW spokesperson.

Images: Michael Mannington, Transport for NSW, Northern Beaches Advocate

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