8 Mar 2019

Delays, confusion as Auckland ferry competes for space

3:47 pm on 8 March 2019

Commuters using the Devonport ferry say the Auckland harbour service is chaotic and unable to cope with the number of cruise ships coming to the harbour.

A Fullers ferry heading from the city to Devonport.

A Fullers ferry heading from the city to Devonport. Photo: RNZ / Joanna MacKenzie

The route, run by private company Fullers 360, and carries about 2 million passengers each year.

Devonport local David Slack said there were delays and overcrowding every year during the summer season as the cruise ships hit town, and this year had been worse.

"More delays, longer waits, vessels not arriving on time and a general confusion at the terminals because visitors don't really know what's going on.

"There's very little guidance for them on the Devonport side. It all adds up to chaos," he said.

Like Mr Slack, Andrew Fox regularly uses the service and said Fullers did not have the right boats plying the route.

He said Fullers needed more boats like the 30-year-old Kea, which has wide doors and is double ended so it can travel in either direction.

"If they invested in the right type of boats, particularly for the Devonport run which has got quite high volumes of people, that would make quite an improvement," he said.

Devonport-Takapuna board chair George Wood has been inundated with complaints about the service which is exempt from any oversight by Auckland Transport.

"It's really sad that Fullers are holding Devonport people to ransom.

"I think they've got to either improve their game and make the ferries more competitive and more reliable or they're going to have to let Auckland Transport make the whole thing work properly."

Fullers chief executive Mike Horne acknowledged February was tough, with the increase in cruise ships having a huge impact.

"The size of the ships - and, for us, where they are parking - so for the first time this year we've seen two cruise ships in the ferry basin itself.

Mike Horne

Fullers chief executive Mike Horne Photo: Supplied / Focal Point Photos

"And then on two, three other occassions a third cruise ship in as well, including Ovation of the Seas which sits just off the end," he said.

The arrival of a cruise ship would shut down the ferry basin for half an hour and the knock-on effects could last all day, he said.

"Then we have to move all the ferries that are stuck in the ferry basin which takes 20 minutes and then we have to move all the ferries that are stuck outside of the basin which takes another 20 minutes.

"So if any other those are happening in or around commuter times, that puts us out in terms of our schedules for the whole day," he said.

While the Kea has been excellent, Mr Horne said the boat did not go fast enough to make up the time lost getting into and out of the ferry basin.

"She can't keep on timetable through Feburary. This is the first time and that's to do with all the increasing congestion on the water space itself."

"Also the fact there's not seemless entry and exit into the facilities, that's becoming really really difficult," he said.

One option would be to change the timetable to run ferries every 20 minutes, rather than every 15 minutes at peak times or every half hour at other times, but Mr Horne said no decision had been made on any changes.

In a statement, Auckland Transport said it recognised there were ongoing concerns about the performance of Fullers.

It said it had no ability to sanction or penalise Fullers for poor service on the Devonport route but it would continue to work with the company.