Sydney Ferries: Wikis


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Sydney Ferries Logo.svg
Sydney Ferries
Mode Ferry
Owner NSW Government
Area Sydney
North Sydney
Hunters Hill
Canada Bay
Key People Rear Admiral Geoffrey Smith (CEO)
Founded 2004
Fleet 31 vessels
Network 37 km
Wharves 38
Public transport |   

Sydney Ferries is a statutory authority of the New South Wales Government providing commuter ferry services on Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River in Sydney, Australia.

Sydney Ferries describes itself as "at the heart of Sydney and its transport network." (AR 5) The network, stretching from Manly in the east to Parramatta in the west. Patronage is shared on an almost equal basis between commuters and tourists, with around 48% of total patronage commuter travel and 46% leisure travel.

The ferry's iconic status derives in part from Sydney's self-image as a harbour city. Despite being a relatively minor part of the city's public transport network, it plays an important part within the city's tourism industry. In recent years, the service has faced criticism that it is both too costly to taxpayers and poorly resourced for commuters, and has been described as being "little more than a working ferry museum".[1]



The earliest known ferry to operate on Port Jackson was The Rose Hill Packet (commonly known as "The Lump") which was built in 1789, and ran to Parramatta. This and other small boats carried cargo and passengers across the harbour and its estuaries.[2]

Sydney Ferries started life as a private sector company. In 1861, the North Shore Ferry Company was formed operating a ferry service across Sydney Harbour. The company was restructured and the name was changed to the North Shore Ferry Company in 1878. In 1899, after a series of mergers, the company was renamed Sydney Ferries Limited. At one point, Sydney Ferries Limited was the largest operator of ferries on the world.[3]

In 1951, Sydney Ferries Limited was facing financial difficulties, and on 1 July 1951 the company was acquired by the New South Wales Government. Meanwhile, up until 1972, the Manly ferry service had been operated independently by the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company, a publicly listed company on the Sydney Stock Exchange. On 19 April 1972, the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company was acquired by Brambles Industries Limited.[4] Following a threat by Brambles to reduce the Manly ferry services, the New South Wales Government arranged for the Public Transport Commission to take over the service as from 1 December 1974.[5]

The Public Transport Commission later became the Urban Transit Authority of New South Wales, and then the State Transit Authority. In 2004, the Sydney Ferries Corporation was formed out of the State Transit Authority. In December 2008, the state owned corporation reverted to a statutory authority.[6]


Sydney Ferry Charlotte about to dock at the Balmain Wharf

As of 2004, Sydney Ferries is a nominally independent corporation whose two 'shareholders' are the incumbent treasurer and finance minister of the NSW state government. The chairman is Geoff Ashton.

The corporation's first two years saw a significant amount of change, with Suzanne Sinclair, Rear Admiral Christopher Oxenbould and Rear Admiral Geoffrey Smith serving as chief executive for parts of 2006.

In 2005-06, the corporation ran a deficit of $48.7 million on revenues of $94.1 million. More than half of the corporation's revenue came from government subsidies. Although the corporation failed to meet its targets for fleet availability, its on-time running of 98.9% outperformed the CityRail network.

The performance of Sydney Ferries has been criticised by the State Opposition transport spokesman Gladys Berejiklian. In December 2006, Berejiklian stated that the fleet of 31 had experienced, on average, two breakdowns per vessel per month between July 2005 and September 2006. Berejiklian blamed a lack of maintenance funding.[7]



The "First Fleet" class ferry Scarborough approaching Cremorne Wharf at daybreak

Sydney Ferries operates a 37-kilometre (23 mi) network, consisting of:

Parry Inquiry

The 2003 Ministerial Inquiry into Sustainable Public Transport in New South Wales, known as the Parry Inquiry, was scathing in its assessment of the role and performance of the ferry network. Report author Tom Parry concluded that:

It is hard to believe that taxpayers or the state are getting the best possible value from the large amounts of money being spent each year. This is not new; it has been a problem for many years facing governments from all sides of politics. There are better ways to deliver public transport ... We have a costly public ferry service that includes what is effectively a subsidised water taxi service for mainly middle to high income earners and tourists
(pp. xiv-xv)
A variety of ferries docked at Circular Quay
Queenscliff crossing the heads, taken from the Manly Ferry Collaroy

Parry recommended that Sydney Ferries be established as a separate state-owned corporation (this occurred in 2004) and that the regulatory framework for all ferry services in Sydney be reviewed. The metadata report listed a number of "poor service decisions" and "poor fleet decisions". Many of his concerns centred on equity. "Sydney ferries are an important feature of the harbour," Parry wrote, "However, only a small proportion of the population directly benefits from these services." (p. 32)

Poor service decisions

Parry raised significant equity concerns about the ferry service. Almost 50% of the cost of a ferry journey is borne by taxpayers despite research revealing that the average personal income of full-fare paying passengers is $59,425—one-third higher than the average for rail and bus passengers. In any case, commuter use of ferries has been in decline for many years. Parry noted that:

Some services such as the Parramatta RiverCat are used almost exclusively by tourists yet the service is priced as a regular public transport service rather than a premium service.
(p. 32)

The report also noted that the Manly JetCat service was expensive and unreliable when the lack of demand for the service was taken into account.

Poor fleet decisions

Parry found that the diversity of the Sydney Ferries fleet was pushing up maintenance costs and compromising reliability. A 2003 study by Sinclair Knight Merz estimated that rationalising the fleet's seven classes could eventually yield cost savings of $4 million per year. (p. 55)


Sydney Ferries fleet
Vessel Class Service Capacity Speed Length Displacement Routes Origin of name
Collaroy Freshwater 1988 1100 14 kn 70.4 m 1140 t Manly Collaroy Beach
Freshwater Freshwater 1982 1100 14 kn 70.4 m 1140 t Manly Freshwater Beach
Narrabeen Freshwater 1984 1100 14 kn 70.4 m 1140 t Manly Narrabeen Beach
Queenscliff Freshwater 1983 1100 14 kn 70.4 m 1140 t Manly Queenscliff Beach
Alexander First Fleet 1985 393 11 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour Alexander, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Borrowdale First Fleet 1985 393 11 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour Borrowdale, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Charlotte First Fleet 1985 393 11 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour Charlotte, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Fishburn First Fleet 1985 393 11 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour Fishburn, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Friendship First Fleet 1986 393 11 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour Friendship, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Golden Grove First Fleet 1986 393 11 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour Golden Grove, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Scarborough First Fleet 1986 393 11 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour Scarborough, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Sirius First Fleet 1984 393 11 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour HMS Sirius, flagship of the 1787 First Fleet
Supply First Fleet 1984 393 11 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour HMS Supply, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Lady Herron Lady Class 1979 554 11 kn 38.71 m 287 t Taronga Zoo
Lady Northcott Lady Class 1974 815 11 kn 43.79 m 383 t Taronga Zoo, Manly Relief Vessel & Cruises Wife of John Northcott, a NSW Governor
Betty Cuthbert RiverCat 1992 230 20 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Betty Cuthbert, an athlete
Dawn Fraser RiverCat 1992 230 20 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Dawn Fraser, a swimmer
Evonne Goolagong RiverCat 1993 230 20 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Evonne Goolagong, a tennis player
Marlene Matthews RiverCat 1993 230 20 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Marlene Matthews, an athlete
Marjorie Jackson RiverCat 1993 230 20 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Marjorie Jackson, an athlete
Nicole Livingstone Formally "Nicole Stevenson RiverCat 1995 230 20 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Nicole Livingstone, a swimmer
Shane Gould RiverCat 1993 230 20 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Shane Gould, a swimmer
Anne Sargeant HarbourCat 1998 150 22 kn 29.6 m 35 t Inner Harbour/ Parramatta Anne Sargeant, a netballer
Pam Burridge HarbourCat 1998 150 22 kn 29.6 m 35 t Inner Harbour / Parramatta Pam Burridge, a surfer
Louise Sauvage SuperCat 2001 250 25 kn 37.76 m 49 t Eastern Suburbs Louise Sauvage, a paralympian
Mary MacKillop SuperCat 2000 250 25 kn 37.76 m 49 t Eastern Suburbs Mary MacKillop, a nun to be named Australia's first saint
SuperCat 4 SuperCat 2001 250 25 kn 37.76 m 49 t Eastern Suburbs No name decided for this vessel
Susie O’Neill SuperCat 2000 250 25 kn 37.76 m 49 t Eastern Suburbs Susie O’Neill, a swimmer


A ferry and the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Ferries has been involved in numerous accidents leading to fatalities during its operation. The most recent event occurred at about 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday 28 March 2007 when the Sydney Ferries HarbourCat Pam Burridge collided with a private charter vessel beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The death toll was four, including a fourteen year-old girl. The passengers on the private vessel were a group from a figure skating seminar at a local rink, who were on a sightseeing cruise of the harbour. Australian champion Sean Carlow was among the survivors of the accident. His mother and coach, former Australian Olympic competitor Liz Cain, had her leg amputated, while one of the dead was a skating judge who had returned from officiating at the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships the previous week.[8][9] On 3 April 2007, then Premier of New South Wales Morris Iemma appointed Bret Walker, a Senior Counsel, to undertake a special commission of inquiry into Sydney Ferries' operations, following the HarbourCat tragedy.[10]

Two accidents were recorded in 2007. In January, one man was killed when a Sydney RiverCat collided with a dinghy, he later died in hospital.[11] In March, a Sydney Ferries vessel crashed into a whale-watching ship before hitting Pyrmont Bridge in Darling Harbour.[12]

On 23 November 2008, at 5:15pm the Lady Northcott ran into the stern of Friendship while the former was berthing behind the latter at Circular Quay. No one was on board the Friendship, and no passengers were injured on the Lady Northcott.

On 6 April 2009 the Lady Northcott crashed into rocks after it overshot Taronga Zoo wharf. No one was injured in the accident, and it was blamed on driver error.[13]


  1. ^ "The 7.30 Report: Rees paralysed over Sydney ferry reform". 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2009-06-29.  
  2. ^ "Hindsight". Mosman Magazine: pp. 26-27. December 2009.  
  3. ^ "Wheels and Keels" (PDF). State Transit Authority – Community Relations Unit. February 2001. Retrieved 2008-02-05.  
  4. ^ "Centenary of Federation Research – Companies in Australia from 1901" (PDF). Australian Stock Exchange. May 2001. Retrieved 2008-02-05.  
  5. ^ "Heritage Database – Historical Notes - Baragoola (M.V.)". NSW Heritage Office. Retrieved 2008-02-05.  
  6. ^ "Transport Administration Amendment (Rail and Ferry Transport Authorities) Act 2008" (PDF). Act of NSW Parliament. December 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-14.  
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Daily Telegraph" Teen feared among ferry dead 29 March 2007 accessed same day
  9. ^ Brisbane teen still missing - Queensland - BrisbaneTimes -
  10. ^ Crash ferries face special inquiry | The Daily Telegraph
  11. ^ Sydney Ferries 'deeply regret' fatal accident. 14/01/2007. ABC News Online
  12. ^ Ferry collides with cruise boat | The Australian
  13. ^ Master to blame for ferry running on to rocks at zoo | The Daily Telegraph
  • Ministerial Inquiry into Sustainable Public Transport in New South Wales

See also

External links


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