February 11 - 17, 2024: Issue 613


Emerald Ferries to Have Engines replaced

Transport for NSW photo

Jo Haylen, NSW Transport Minister, has stated this morning, February 7,  that the Sydney’s three Second Generation Emerald Class vessels will be fitted with new, heavier duty engines ensuring safer, smoother and more frequent journeys along the city’s most popular ferry route.

Balmoral was removed from passenger service on 4 February for about 10 weeks for the new engine to be fitted. Once the Balmoral is back in service the Clontarf will be taken out of service, with the Fairlight planned to undergo an engine change in late August.

Transdev Sydney Ferries is starting the re-fitting program after the busy summer holidays. Each vessel will be dry-docked one at a time, to reduce timetable disruption.

The F1 Manly service will continue operating the extended summer timetable with two Freshwater class vessels and two Emerald Class.

The re-engine program will be carried out at the Balmain Shipyard by Transdev Sydney Ferries, with around 30 people working on the project. The cost of the re-fitting program will be paid for by Transdev Sydney Ferries.

Once the engines are installed, Transdev will conduct extensive sea trials with Health and Safety Representatives and industry regulators.

Transport Minister Jo Haylen said:

“These overseas-built ferries had a challenging start to their time on the harbour, but these new engines will mean the ferries will spend less time out of service and more time serving passengers.

“By re-fitting the vessels with hydrogen fuel capable equipment, we are also moving forward on future proofing the Sydney ferry fleet.

“Passengers can still enjoy a trip on the Harbour between Manly and Circular Quay on the iconic Freshwater Class vessels which are now running twice as often, offering more choice and increasing capacity on the popular F1 route.”

In March 2023 one of the overseas built Emerald Class 2 Manly Ferries suffered a serious steering failure which will leave it out of action for days at least. This was the ninth steering failure that the overseas built ferry had had since it began service in 2021.

The Fairlight - which is one of three overseas built manly ferries that replaced the NSW built Freshwater Class ferries – was travelling at high speed at approximately 7:30pm on Sunday March 19 when its primary steering failed. 

Fairlight was carrying approximately 150 passengers at the time. The vessel eventually returned to dock after the crew used the back up steering system to regain control of the vessel. 

Both other Emerald Class 2 Manly Ferries, Clontarf and Balmoral have also had multiple steering failures. 

The steering failures on the Emerald Class 2 ferries are part of a much more extensive list of defects which also include:

  • Cracked fuel tanks;
  • An engine exploding;
  • Hot oil sprayed around the engine room after the lubricating oil system cracked;
  • Emergency doors locked because they’re a safety hazard to passengers;
  • Leaks discovered in the hulls;
  • Damage to rudders in heavy swells;
  • Windows shattered in heavy swells;
  • An Internal warning sent to masters that vessels could become airborne in heavy swells;
  • Life rafts secured with cable ties.

On March 12, 2022 the then coalition government announced the Emerald Class Ferries were approved for maximum swell conditions.

Sydney Harbour’s newest ferries have passed final testing to operate the F1 Circular Quay to Manly route in maximum swell conditions for which they have been built.

The Generation 2 Emerald Class ferries, all of which entered service by the end of last year,cannowoperateinswellsupto4.5metres, which is the vessels’ full classification for Sydney Harbour.

Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott said this welcome news and the testing had ensured the safety of customers and crews was of the utmost priority.

“While this clearance took a bit longer than we would have liked, we wanted to make sure it was done right to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” Mr Elliott said.

“These new ferries are a huge upgrade – they are fully accessible and able to provide a faster, more frequent service, which is a massive win for regular commuters and tourists alike.”

Sydney Ferries operator Transdev Managing Director Loretta Lynch said the outcome was the result of many hours of structured trialling.

“It’s great news that these state-of-the-art ferries have been successfully trialled by our highly experienced crews, and are now operating in both day and night to the limit of the vessel survey,” Ms Lynch said.

“We are proud to be improving the Manly services with the new Generation 2 Emerald class ferries.”

The vessels were designed by world renowned Australian naval architects, Incat Crowther, and have been specifically engineered with reinforced hulls to enable operation in the larger swells experienced when crossing the Sydney Heads.

Two Freshwater Ferries will continue to operate alongside the new Generation 2 Emerald Class ferries on weekends and public holidays.

Photo: a Manly Emerald class ferry being trialled on the route, March 3rd, 2022 - photo by and courtesy Mark Crawley, taken from the Freshwater ferry

On October 31, 2021 it was announced that the first of three new Emerald Class ferries, named after the popular Sydney Harbour beach Fairlight, is now in passenger service on the F1 Circular Quay – Manly route.

Minister for Transport and Roads Rob Stokes said the new vessel had met strict safety standards, completing many hours of successful on water testing ahead of its introduction to service.

“The Generation 2 Emerald Class ferries are purpose built to operate in heavy swells, are fully accessible, have significantly reduced carbon emissions and are cheaper to run than our older vessels,” Mr Stokes said.

“The new Emerald Class ferries, along with ten new River Class vessels, were built by Australian shipbuilder Birdon, with all design work undertaken in Australia.

“Throughout the design and build of these ferries there’s been a strong focus on Aussie involvement, with 70 per cent of the total program of work benefitting local suppliers and creating local jobs.”

Member for Manly James Griffin said the remaining two Emerald Class ferries will be introduced progressively over the coming weeks, and are named after the popular Sydney Harbour beaches Clontarf and Balmoral.

Then NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance, visited Birdon’s Port Macquarie shipyard on November 26th 2020. The Minister announced that the three new Emerald class ferries will be completed in Port Macquarie.

Minister Constance also explained that the ferries had to be fabricated offshore because of the NSW Government’s tight schedule requirements driven by commuter demand. Despite these tight timing requirements, Birdon has ensured that all design, procurement, engineering, and project management has happened from our Port Macquarie head office in regional NSW.

The design was completed by Incat Crowther.

“People need to know 70 per cent of the work has happened here in Australia, and two thirds of the component parts in the vessels are Australian,” Mr Constance said.

That 70 per cent, Mr Constance explained, includes design, procurement, engineering, sourcing of component parts and project management.

The construction of the hulls and fabrication of the vessels has been completed in shipyards in the Asian region.

“The decision in terms of doing the fabrication has been driven by the demand of the commuters wanting to get on the vessels in Sydney so we’ve had to do this at speed. Birdon has done this,” he said.

“Ultimately, these are Australian-made vessels.”