Sydney’s aging ferry fleet will receive a major update, with a contract for the building of six new catamaran ferries awarded to Tasmanian company Incat. The first new ferry is planned to enter service by the end of 2016, and all of them by the end of 2017.
NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance announced the contract for the new vessels, noting that they are the first new vessels in the Sydney Ferries fleet since 2001, when the 250 passenger SuperCats entered service. Each 35 metre vessel will carry up to 400 passengers.
Mr Constance did not announce the size of the contract, which has been estimated by industry insiders at around $50 million. The government will own the vessels, though the operation of harbour ferries was privatised in 2012, when a seven year contract was awarded to Harbour City Ferries, a 50:50 joint venture between Transdev (owned by French company Veolia) and Transfield.
“The new ferries are a major step forward in the NSW Government’s plans to modernise and expand the ferry network,” Mr Constance said. “From the outside they will look similar to the exiting First Fleet vessels, but there will be improved customer features including more spacious outdoor viewing areas, 87 extra seats and an additional large, walk-around deck.”
The nine existing First Fleet ferries are each named after ships in the First fleet. They date from the 1980s, and were built at Carrington Slipways near Newcastle.
The new ferries will travel the Inner Harbour routes, from Watsons Bay in the east to Cockatoo Island in the west, including the new Barangaroo wharf.
The vessels will all have Wi-Fi access, luggage and bicycle storage areas, real-time passenger information, tables and charging stations for electronic devices.
Incat, based in Hobart, is an Australian manufacturing and export success story. It has recently built two new ferries to operate on the Thames in London, with other vessels in service in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It is also building two new ferries for the flagship Manly route on Sydney Harbour.
The company is best known for its high speed ‘wave piercing’ catamarans. It also sells vessels to the Australian and US military. It built the troop carrying catamaran HMAS Jervis Bay, launched in 1997, which saw service in East Timor before being decommissioned in 2001. It now operates as the Condor Rapide, a passenger ferry between the Channel Islands and France.
Sydney ferries carry 16 million passengers a year.
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