Why should we keep the ferries freshwater

When the Queenscliff sets sail this Wednesday for its last weekday passenger service, we’ll all be lyrical with our favorite Manly ferry moment. Background music: James Reyne of Australian Crawl singing: “As the Manly Ferry cuts its way to Circular Quay. “

For me, these are the travels of my teenage years, sitting on the deck outside, the smell of salt water and the freedom of the suburbs in my nostrils, getting drenched in the spray as the enormous ship maneuvered the swell of heads. For former Prime Minister Paul Keating it was all about catching the Bankstown Red Rattlesnake and boarding the double-ended Freshwater class ferry and jump from behind when he got to Manly.

The Manly ferry passing the heads.Credit:David whitley

Sydney residents and foreigners alike will all be foggy at the thought of bidding farewell to the first of the last four Freshwater Class ferries, our city’s signature form of transport and tourism. As we begin the process of sending them all back to Balmain’s wharf, emerging for weekend-only trips, let’s hope their fate won’t be the same as the Dee Why’s, which in 1976 was sunk off the coast. at Long Bay reef.

Yes, we can lament the loss of the 70-meter Australian-made double-ended ships that carry 1,100 passengers, compared to the 35-meter, 400-passenger Emerald-class ferries made in Indonesia and China that will replace them.

There is no doubt that Transport for NSW and TransDev, which operates our government owned ferries, will argue that there is a good business case for replacing old diesel ferries with new diesel ferries. But rather than taking a sentimental journey to nowhere, why not seek inspiration in other maritime cities around the world.

Like the Finnish city of Turku and its fight to save the 117-year-old ferry, The Fori. Built in 1904, it ran on steam until 1955 when it was converted to diesel. In 2015, it was deemed too dirty and noisy and was downgraded. However, a huge backlash ensued: the people of Turku banded together to save their beloved ferry. State authorities reversed their decision and instead of scrapping the ship, replaced its polluting diesel engines with electric motors powered by batteries.

According to Andrew Westwood, global senior vice president of Det Norske Veritas, the world’s largest maritime classification society and former chief merchant marine engineer: “The vessel was returned to service in 2017 and exceeded passenger expectations and operators as well as maintaining maritime history.

Westwood has prepared a paper on how electrification could save the freshwater class of Manly ferries, describing how ships could be recharged at Circular Quay and Manly and how Cockatoo Island could be used as a source of renewable energy. It features examples from around the world of how similar double-ended ferries have been converted to electricity while reducing operating costs. He introduced it to the NSW government, but believes the government has given “not much consideration at all” to his work.

He’s often talked about how Sydney’s boat designers and builders have worked on electric vessels for London and San Francisco, but they haven’t turned to those plying the harbor on our doorstep. Our city is home to one of the best naval architecture schools in the world at the University of NSW, he said, but instead of harnessing that brain power, we have looked overseas to replace our ferries. brand.

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