‘Now well beyond a joke’:Leaks discovered in Sydney’s new Manly ferries

Leaks have been discovered in Sydney’s new Manly ferries,with a safety review of the Emerald-class vessels identifying the problem near their rudders.

The three vessels are due to replace two of the iconic Freshwater ferries on the Manly route later this year,but delays to the Emerald class’ arrival have pushed back the impending retirement of the older boats.

One of three new Emerald-class ferries sailing into Sydney for the first time last month.

One of three new Emerald-class ferries sailing into Sydney for the first time last month.Wolter Peeters

Engineering work has been carried out on the Emeralds to stop water entering the vessels through their rudder seals,a spokeswoman for the city’s private ferry operator Transdev said on Saturday.

The spokeswoman said the water entry was identified during safety inspections of the ferries,but the leaks were not resulting in water entering the engine room of the vessels,which are conducting sea trials afterarriving in Sydney last month.

“We are currently implementing a minor engineering improvement to address some water ingress through the rudder seal in line with Australian manufacturer expectations,” the spokeswoman said on Friday,before confirming it had been carried out on Saturday.

The latest complication discovered on new,overseas-built Sydney Harbour ferries comes after electrical issues were identified on the problem-plagued River-class ferries.

The Transdev spokeswoman confirmed “final work” was currently being carried out on electrical systems of the boats,which opposition transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen said was associated with fuse and component problems.

TheHerald revealed earlier this month the River-class ferries will only operate during daylight hours when they enter service more than a year late,due to night-time safety concerns.

A design fault in the wheelhouse of the ferries is causing reflection issues for the crew at night,with significant structural rectification work to address the problem likely to take months.

While work will be carried out incrementally on the vessels to rectify the problem in coming months,they will operate only when the sun is up until the issue is solved. The River-class ferries are expected to enter service on the harbour and Parramatta River in the next few weeks,according to Transdev.

The ferries will also not be able to pass under several bridges if passengers are seated on the top deck,and have experienced stalling issues when braking under emergency conditions.

Ms Haylen said the NSW government needed to ensure future ferries were sourced from local manufacturers to avoid the litany of problems discovered upon their arrival.

“[Transport Minister] Andrew Constance’s new ferries are now well beyond a joke. His River-class ferries still can’t operate at night and the new Manly ferries are leaking,” Ms Haylen said.

Mr Constance said the trial process for new ferries served to ensure any potential issues were found and addressed.

“It’s great to see[manufacturer] Birdon has quickly resolved this rudder seal issue,and we look forward to seeing the new Emerald Class ferries entering customer service,” Mr Constance said.

Delays to the arrival of the Emerald-class ferries were due to flooding in Port Macquarie earlier this year,where work was being carried out on the vessels.

The government had originally planned for the new Emerald-class ferries to replace the two Freshwaters in mid-2021,with the Freshwater ferries first slated to be removed from service in the second quarter of the year.

Named after beaches in Sydney’s north,the first of the double-ended ferries,the Freshwater,was launched in 1982,followed by the Queenscliff less than a year later,the Narrabeen in 1984 and the Collaroy in 1988. They can each carry about 1000 passengers,compared with about 400 on the new Emerald-class ferries.

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Tom Rabe is a State Political Reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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