Electrification of the Freshwater ferries is the new focus of the Save the Manly Ferries campaign following a feisty Parliamentary debate last month. The debate was prompted by a 22,000 signature petition calling for the government to retain all four Freshwater class ferries, which are set to be largely replaced by smaller Emerald class boats.
Leader of the community campaign and Northern Beaches Deputy Mayor Candy Bingham said the case was strong for conversion of the Freshwater ferries to battery power or other low emission technology, such as biofuels or even hydrogen. Electrification of the ferries is supported by Manly MP James Griffin, and battery power has been flagged as the future for Sydney’s ferry fleet by the State Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
While Minister Constance is not yet talking about electrification of existing ferries, electric conversion is being successfully carried out in many locations, including Seattle and Sweden, with large double-ended passenger ferries similar to our Freshwaters. Pictured above is a Seattle passenger and car ferry, which is part of the fleet to be electrified.
Another focus is the growing list of defects that have been discovered on the the new ferries, which were made in China and are now undergoing major remedial work here. Of the 80 defects and safety concerns, the worst is probably the thin hull, which may not be capable of supporting reinforcement that’s necessary for the ferries to withstand repeated rough water trips across the heads.
Other concerns with the new ferries include their accessibility for people using wheelchairs, older citizens, families with prams and cyclists. The ferries have narrow steep gangplanks, narrow passage ways around the side and very little space in the central areas. Wheelchair users say there is inadequate spaces for them in the designated areas.
As well, many businesses are worried that the loss of the iconic Manly Ferries will have an impact on our $500 million a year tourist economy. While the State Government has promised to initially keep two ferries for weekends and public holidays, that does not help people with disabilities and others who go to the city during the week to avoid the weekend rush; or tourists who want the iconic Manly Ferry experience during the week.
All the Freshwater ferries are in excellent mechanical condition, as they have a rigorous assessment and top to toe service every five years. James Griffin has called on other institutions, including Northern Beaches Council to consider taking the remaining two ferries on, for tourism or heritage purposes.