Unreliable engines will be replaced with ‘renewable ready’ upgrades in the three Emerald-class Manly ferries.
Concerns over the reliability of the new Generation 2 Emerald-class ferry fleet have been mounting since they first entered service in October 2021. Although criticised for being Chinese built, the shipbuilder claimed the design of the ferries and propulsion systems were all sourced in Australia.
As the new Generation 2 Emerald-class fleet entered service, the older Freshwater-class ferries were due to be retired, but gradually, all but one has re-entered service as concerns over safety and reliability issues mounted.
The NSW Government has announced that all three Emerald-class ferries will now undergo engine refits, with the MV Balmoral already put in dry dock on 04 February to undergo the ten-week process. The MV Clontarf is the next in line for an engine replacement, followed by the MV Fairlight in late August. The process will likely last until the end of the year, if all runs to schedule.
The existing engines will be replaced with heavier duty versions, understood to be made in Germany. Transport for NSW (TfNSW) said they will ensure ‘smoother and more frequent journeys along the city’s most popular ferry route’. TfNSW also said the process of replacements was not begun until the busy summer holiday period had concluded, to minimise possible disruptions.
According to TfNSW, with two Freshwater-class and two Emerald-class ferries in operation, the F1 Manly service can continue to operate on the extended summer timetable. The recent addition of the Manly Fast Ferry to the Opal fare network also provides additional options for ferry patrons.
Although not stated in the announcement, NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen revealed in a social media post that the engines of the Emerald-class ferries had been beset with ‘overheating’ problems.
In her official announcement of the refit program, the Minister acknowledged the ‘challenging’ introduction of the Emerald-class ferries, but also hinted at a renewable fuel future for the fleet.
“These overseas-built ferries had a challenging start to their time on the harbour, but these new engines will mean the ferries will spend less time out of service and more time serving passengers.
“By refitting the vessels with hydrogen fuel capable equipment, we are also moving forward on future proofing the Sydney ferry fleet.
“Passengers can still enjoy a trip on the Harbour between Manly and Circular Quay on the iconic Freshwater-class vessels which are now running twice as often, offering more choice and increasing capacity on the popular F1 route,” said Minister Haylen.
The refit program will be undertaken at the Balmain Shipyard by Transdev Sydney Ferries, with around 30 people working on the project. The cost of the program, which has not been disclosed, will be paid for by Transdev Sydney Ferries. Following installation, all vessels will have to undergo sea trials before re-entering service.
Images: Transport for NSW, Michael Mannington, Northern Beaches Advocate
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