The MV Queenscliff is returning to service following the botched introduction of the new ferry fleet.

The MV Queenscliff (main image) was retired from service in October 2021, as part of the replacement of the iconic Freshwater-class ferries with the newer and faster Generation 2 Emerald-class fleet.

After 38 years in service, since July 1983, the MV Queenscliff made its final run on the Circular Quay to Manly route at 1.30pm Wednesday, 13 October 2021 (video below).

The three Emerald-class ferries — MV Fairlight, MV Clontarf and MV Balmoral — have been plagued with controversy since their introduction from late October 2021.

Two of the Freshwater-class fleet, the MV Freshwater and MV Collaroy, were retained for weekend services, which was then extended to weekday commuter services as the Emerald-class fleet continued to experience a plethora of operational issues, such as cracked hulls and being unable to dock at low tide.

Manly Ferry Queenscliff final trip
Howard Collins

Howard Collins

When the MV Queenscliff (image above) was withdrawn from service in mid-October 2021, Transport for NSW Chief Operations Officer Howard Collins said it would be refurbished to replace the MV Collaroy long-term.

“Transport for NSW will be refurbishing the MV Queenscliff, which will be re-introduced to service next year to replace the MV Collaroy.

“A plan for the retirement and disposal of the MV Collaroy and MV Narrabeen is currently in development, including community consultation for potential repurposing of the vessels,” said Mr Collins in 2021.

Chris Minns

Chris Minns

That plan now looks to have been scrapped by Labor, with NSW Premier Chris Minns on Tuesday (06 June) committing to return as many of the Freshwater-class ferries as possible — the MV Queenscliff, MV Freshwater, MV Collaroy and MV Narrabeen — to full service.

“The previous Government’s plan to retire the Freshwater ferries was reckless. We’re reversing their decision and returning the iconic Freshwaters to Sydney Harbour,” said Premier Minns.

MV Freshwater ferry pulling into Manly Wharf

Premier Minns’ sentiments were echoed by NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen.

Jo Haylen

Jo Haylen

“These vessels are beloved and reliable, and it is exciting we are in the final stretch in getting the Queenscliff back on the F1 Manly to Circular Quay route.

“They are not only a great option for everyday commuters and tourists looking for an iconic trip across the harbour but can also carry around 1,000 passengers per trip.

“We are standing by our election commitments with passengers set to be enjoying the upgraded ferry this summer.

“We know the Australian-made Freshwaters are steeped in NSW history and we are doing all we can to ensure they remain part of our iconic harbour scenery,” said Minister Haylen.

Manly Wharf

The 40-year-old MV Queenscliff is currently docked at Cockatoo Island undergoing important restoration work, including upgrading engines and machinery. The upgrade has also refreshed passenger areas and will improve the experience for customers with a disability.

The approximately $16m refurbishment has included more than:

  • 650 square metres of new ceiling panels
  • Seven kilometres of new cabling
  • 4,000 litres of paint
  • 750 square metres of new flooring
  • And every interior seat has been re-covered

Final works involve reinstalling oil distribution boxes, which require dry docking at Garden Island and is subject to the Australian Navy’s maintenance schedule. It is due to return to the F1 Manly to Circular Quay route in November, and will join the MV Freshwater in ferrying passengers every day.

Freshwater-class Manly Ferries

The MV Collaroy was working alongside the MV Freshwater (image above) until 12-months ago when it experienced steering problems. Obtaining parts specific to the operational and maintenance needs of the MV Collaroy has proven challenging, and if unresolved, may result in it being retired as early as September 2023.

The MV Narrabeen, which was decommissioned shortly after the MV Queenscliff, is undergoing extensive restoration works at Cockatoo Island and is expected to re-join the Freshwater-class fleet by July 2024.

MV Fairlight Emerald-class Manly ferry

Meanwhile, the future of the Generation 2 Emerald-class ferries (image above) has not yet been determined and appears to rely upon the successful return of the Freshwater-class fleet.

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

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