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Dec 4, 2023 | Government, Transport
Two years after it was decommissioned following 38 years of service, the MV Queenscliff has made a permanent return to Sydney Harbour.
Following the introduction of the new Generation 2 Emerald-class ferry fleet in late October 2021 under the former NSW Liberal Government, the initial plan was to retire all four of the iconic Freshwater-class ferries (MV Queenscliff, MV Freshwater, MV Narrabeen, MV Collaroy) that serviced the F1 Manly to Circular Quay route.
At the time, the government declared the three new Generation 2 Emerald-class ferries, named after Middle Harbour beaches — MV Fairlight, MV Clontarf and MV Balmoral, to be a faster and more efficient service.
However, despite all three 400-passenger ferries passing a seaworthiness test and certification in March 2022, they were plagued by operational issues such as cracked hulls, steering failures, and being unable to dock at low tide.
This lead to repeated calls for the retention of the older, larger, and ‘more reliable’ Freshwater-class ferries that carry over 1,000 passengers per journey, resulting in a backflip on the harbour workhorses in August 2022.
Prior to the last NSW Election, Labor promised to refit and return three of the four iconic Freshwater-class ferries to service — the MV Queenscliff, MV Freshwater and MV Narrabeen. The future of the MV Collaroy remains uncertain after experiencing steering problems in mid-2022 and due to reported differences that make it harder to refurbish than the other vessels.
True to their word, the 40-year-old MV Queenscliff, which made its maiden voyage in July 1983, was returned to service last Monday (27 November) following a major overhaul. The two-year refurbishment of the 1,100 passenger capacity vessel was undertaken by a raft of navel engineers, electrical engineers, shipbuilders, painters, and plumbers.
The engine also underwent a major overhaul, and two new 2.5m-wide propellers were installed at the Garden Island dry dock. The 4.5 tonne propellers were hoisted into place by crane with six expert engineers guiding them into place.
NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen said the return of the MV Queenscliff, alongside the MV Freshwater, restored capacity to one of Sydney’s busiest ferry routes in time for the summer season.

Jo Haylen

Jo Haylen

Jo Haylen
“These vessels are beloved and reliable, and it is exciting we are in the final stretch in getting the Queenscliff back on the F1 Manly to Circular Quay route.
“They are not only a great option for everyday commuters and tourists looking for an iconic trip across the harbour but can also carry around 1,000 passengers per trip.
“We are standing by our election commitments with passengers to be enjoying the upgraded ferry by the summer holidays. We know the Australian-made Freshwaters are steeped in NSW history and we are doing all we can to ensure they remain part of our iconic harbour scenery,” said Minister Haylen.
As for the status of the remaining three iconic Freshwater-class ferries, the MV Freshwater completed a major refurbishment in mid-2021; the MV Narrabeen, which was decommissioned shortly after the MV Queenscliff, is undergoing extensive restoration works at Cockatoo Island and is due to return to service by July 2024; and the MV Collaroy is also docked at Cockatoo Island, pending a final decision on its future.
Images: Northern Beaches Advocate, Transport for NSW, Michael Mannington, NSW Government

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