28 Jan 2020

Fullers stands by choice to cancel ferries in Auckland over cruise ship claims

2:40 pm on 28 January 2020

Fullers is standing by a decision to cancel ferry services over claims cruise ships are congesting Auckland's harbour.

A Fullers ferry docked at the Auckland Ferry Terminal before leaving for Waiheke

A Fullers ferry. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The ferry company cancelled ferries from Auckland to Devonport and Waiheke Island last week - blaming cruise ships berthing outside their regular schedule.

It was a claim contradicted by Auckland Transport which said the disruption had nothing to do with cruise ships and any decisions landed squarely with Fullers.

Fullers CEO Mike Horne has backed the decision to cancel services and is now calling for cruise ship movements to be further restricted in the wharf.

"It is fundamental for the safety of our customers and staff that we have a standard operating procedure that restricts ferry movements in and out of the basin while cruise ships are thrusting and while the water is still turbulent due to cruise ship berthing.

"Ferry movements during this time can result in extreme and unpredictable movement of the vessel which puts our customers and our staff at risk."

Fullers has published video footage it claims demonstrates the unpredictable and potentially damaging effect of "wash" from cruise ship thrusters.

"Cruise ships are getting bigger and, as a result, their thrusting power is increasing. The new breakwater constructed near Queens Wharf has materially changed tidal wave flow and there are 40 metres of construction activity along Queens Wharf that is reducing navigable water space," Horne said.

He said Fullers was supportive of the initiative requested by Auckland's mayor Phil Goff for a working group to be formed to find a solution to cruise ship movements impacting ferry services.

"Like ferry transport, the cruise ship industry is critical to Auckland's economy and as we share the water space, it is imperative we find a solution that caters for both of our high-value sectors without compromising our stringent health and safety standards.

"Our primary focus is the safety of our passengers and our crew. The expectation that we should be able to drive our ferries while wake and thrust from a cruise ship is still active, is unacceptable. If one of our ferries was to drive through this wake and the thrust from a cruise ship was to impact another vessel or structure, or suffer some sort of violent movement, the results could be catastrophic."

Fullers has proposed an immediate solution of restricting ship movements in the Ferry Basin to Princes wharf to 6am, the current restriction being 7.30am, to ensure there is no conflict between Auckland ferry users and cruise ships.

It's also commissioned Sydney-based Thompson-Clark Shipping to do an independent review of the operating environment and to assess Fullers's decision not to operate while cruise ships are thrusting.

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