Cancelled Auckland ferry services saved, new operator on board

Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/132944128/cancelled-auckland-ferry-services-saved-new-operator-on-board

Three Auckland ferry services due to be cancelled indefinitely due to the maritime skills shortage have been thrown a lifeline.

Auckland Transport previously said the Birkenhead, Te Onewa Northcote Point and Bayswater ferry services would be cancelled from October 1 to allow Fullers 360 to accelerate a crew training program.

The program will see 30 crew members become qualified deckhands or skippers, filling in the 25 skipper shortfall which has resulted in the regular cancellations of sailings across the ferry network.

“The ongoing shortage of qualified ferry crew means it is not possible to reliably run AT’s full ferry network and to train meaningful numbers of new ferry crew members at the same time,” executive manager of public transport services Stacey van der Putten previously said.

But on Friday, AT announced it had secured a new ferry operator for the would-be cancelled services.

Explore Group already operates on the Hauraki Gulf/Tikapa Moana, including ferry services to Motutapu and Tiritiri Matangi islands and a whale and dolphin safari.

Managing director William Goodfellow said taking over the North Shore commuter ferry services was a natural next step for the company.

It would be bringing in a near-new vessel from its Australian counterpart for the job.

“We are currently modifying her to improve her capacity as a commuter vessel – including increasing bike storage and providing accessible access.”

It would deploy a vessel from its Bay of Islands fleet, Discovery IV, until the Australian ferry’s arrival to Aotearoa later in October.

Northcote Point resident James Gadd, who catches the ferry three times a week to his job at Commercial Bay in the Auckland CBD, said it was “fantastic” the ferry service would continue.

“I was dreading having to find alternative transport.”

He hoped the arrangement would see the current timetable improved, with more frequent services during peak hours to make the service more reliable.

“They just need to get back to the pre-Covid timetable.”

North Shore councillor Chris Darby said having Explore operate the ferries would help build a more robust ferry network for “long-suffering ferry users”.

“Although the frequency of service is still not what our communities expect, our goal is to increase the number of services at peak, as soon as crew availability and resources allow,” councillor Richard Hills added.

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Bernadette Robert

Bernadette Robert