Maritime union: Iconic Manly ferries have ‘years of life left’

Two iconic Manly ferries traverse Sydney Harbour. Photo: Save the Manly Ferries/Facebook.


Union and community activists want the NSW Government to reverse its decision to scrap the historic Manly ferries. A rally just before the Queenscliff carried its last passengers on 13 October included the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

Paul Garrett, deputy secretary of the MUA Sydney branch said the decision was “a slap in the face for workers, passengers and ferry lovers across Australia”.

The “obsession with privatisation, cost cutting and offshoring” was behind the decommissioning, he said. 

Although the Queenscliff, along with the three other Freshwater class ferries, have “many years of life left”,  the government wants them replaced with the smaller and less safe Emerald class catamarans.

According to the MUA, the new ferries have design and operational problems and may not be able to handle the swells through Sydney Harbour. “With the ongoing safety issues, our members will work on them only when they are safe to operate and take passengers,” Garrett said.

There are concerns the new Emerald class ferries may not be able to handle the swells in Sydney Harbour. Pictured is the Queenscliff riding out rough weather on the harbour. Photo: Save the Manly Ferries/Facebook.

The petition to save the Manly ferries has drawn wide support: some 22,000 people signed a petition that was tabled in parliament in February.

The government plans to retain two of the Manly ferries for weekend and public holiday trips, but the Manly community wants all four heritage ferries to be maintained and kept in service until there is a better replacement plan with Australian-built, clean-energy, large double-ended ferries.

Garrett said the fight to save all four Freshwater class ferries was far from over. “Sending the Queenscliff to be scrapped is a costly mistake that will hurt tourism and commuters, as Sydney is recovering from the Covid-19 crisis.”

Northern Beaches Deputy Mayor, Candy Bingham, said that “before COVID-19 lockdowns, the heritage Freshwater Class ferries carried four million passengers in 2019”.

“These ferries, along with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, are icons of Sydney Harbour”, Bingham said.

“The community is calling on the new minster for transport, Rob Stokes, to sort out this mess. Sydney deserves better!”

This article first appeared in Green Left. It is republished here with the kind permission of Green Left.