MV Freshwater

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MV Freshwater
MV Freshwater
MV Freshwater at Balmain Shipyard
Name: MV Freshwater
Namesake: Freshwater Beach
Owner: Government of New South Wales
Operator: Harbour City Ferries
Port of registry: Sydney
Route: Manly ferry services
Builder: State Dockyard
Cost: $8.5 million[1]
Yard number: 105
Laid down: 1980
Launched: 27 March 1982
Christened: 18 December 1982
Status: In service
Class overview
Preceded by: Dee Why, Bingarra
Completed: 4
General characteristics
Class and type: Freshwater class ferry
Displacement: 1,140 tons (loaded)
Length: 70.4 m (231 ft)
Beam: 13.06 m (42.8 ft)
Draught: 3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Decks: 2
Capacity: 1,100
Crew: 6
Notes: Double ended single hull of welded steel construction. Welded aluminium alloy superstructure.

MV Freshwater is the lead ship of four Freshwater class ferries[2] that operate the Manly ferry service between Circular Quay and Manly on Sydney Harbour. The ferry is owned by the Government of New South Wales and operated by Harbour City Ferries. It is named after Freshwater Beach on Sydney's Northern Beaches. It was launched on 27 March 1982 by Olivia Cox and commissioned by her husband, Minister for Transport Peter Cox, on 18 December 1982.


The need for new ferries on the Manly-Circular Quay service was identified during the mid 1970s, during which time the service was characterised by deteriorating quality and low patronage.

Decline of the Manly ferries[edit]

Prior to 1971, the ferry services on the Manly-Circular Quay route were operated by the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company. In that year, the company posted a modest profit of $112,000. Patronage was approaching all-time lows, but the growth prospect for ferry services was considered strong. In November 1971, the company attracted a $1.5 million takeover bid from diversified transport company Brambles Industries. The initial bid was rejected, but a later offer of $2.1 million was accepted.[1]

When Brambles took over, the Manly fleet consisted of four ferries: South Steyne, North Head, Bellubera and Baragoola, plus hydrofoils Manly, Fairlight and Dee Why. Almost immediately, the hydrofoils were sold to Waltons Finance and leased back. The four ferries were all ageing and expensive to maintain, and it soon became evident that Brambles intended to sell them to the State Government at the earliest opportunity. Fare increases and service suspensions followed. The Bellubera was withdrawn from service on 14 December 1973; the Baragoola was to follow early the next year. Public outrage and fears that the service would be suspended entirely led to the government resuming responsibility for the operation of the ferries in February 1974.[1]

Concerns about the servicability of the existing vessels led to a decision to modify the design of the Lady Wakehurst and Lady Northcott, then under construction for use on the inner harbour routes, so that they could be used as relief boats on the Manly run. The decision proved fortuitous; by 1977 the Baragoola was out of service for maintenance so often that the Lady Wakehurst became a full-time addition to the Manly fleet.

During the naming ceremony for the Lady Northcott on 11 February 1975, Minister for Transport Wal Fife announced that two new ferries would be introduced to the Manly service within three years.[1]

The Burness Corlett report[edit]

A study by maritime consultants Burness Corlett Australia was released in July 1976. It investigated the requirements of new vessels to replace the North Head and Baragoola by 1978. Various configurations were considered, including conventional monohull, catamaran, hovercraft and hydrofoil. Planing ferries of both single and twin-hull configuration were rejected, as such a configuration cannot be double-ended and therefore would have required berthing stern-first. Hydrofoils were also rejected from consideration due to due to excessive cost and limited passenger capacity. Two options were selected for detailed investigation: monohull and twin-hull, both double ended and having 1,200 passengers capacity. [3]

Detailed designs and blueprints were prepared for both options. The study recommended the selection of the twin-hull due to the higher service frequency achievable (due to the twin-hull's faster speed of 18 knots versus 14.5 knots), however the study noted that other than this, there was relatively little difference between the options. The twin-hull was designed with dimensions of 63 metres (207 ft) length, 12.8 metres (42 ft) beam, and 3.3 metres (11 ft) draft, while the monohull design was 67 metres (220 ft) length, 11.6 metres (38 ft) beam, and 4.27 metres (14.0 ft) draft. The wider beam of the twin-hull design would exceed the limits of the existing wharves at Circular Quay, and necessitate a reconfiguration of the wharves if selected. Burness Corlett were confident that the twin-hull option was the superior choice, due to service speed and stability through Sydney Heads, and so no model tests were performed for the monohull design.[3]

Burness Corlett predicted that either design would take approximately 21 months to construct, and that if the new ferries were to be introduced in 1978 as planned, an aggressive construction program would have to begin immediately, with tenders to be called no later than April 1976 (the report was not even released until three months after this date).[3]

New ferries announced[edit]

After a change of government at the 1976 election, the new government's Transport Minister Peter Cox announced that tenders would be called for the construction of a new "super ferry" in line with the results of the engineering study, to carry up to 1,200 passengers at speeds of 18 knots (33 km/h). However, two years later, no tenders had been called.[1]

Steelwork for Freshwater was laid down at the State Dockyard on 31 October 1980. Strike actions delayed completion until June 1982. The ferry terminals at Circular Quay and Manly were substantially modified to accommodate the larger ferries, including the installation of height-adjustable ramps.[4]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • 10 March 1983 - ran aground at Manly Cove after computer failure[5]
  • 30 March 1985 - Freshwater was hijacked by a man who threatened to shoot passengers unless the captain piloted the ferry beyond Sydney Heads into the ocean. The hijacker was subdued after a police officer boarded the vessel and fired three warning shots. It turned out that the man, a New Zealander, had not been carrying a gun, but an empty vodka bottle (the second of two that he had consumed before boarding the vessel) concealed under his jacket. After a short jail sentence, the man returned to New Zealand in January 1986 by stowing away on the Oriana, for which he was also fined.[6][7][8]
  • 22 June 2013 - collided with Manly Wharf after a malfunction of the throttle control lever, causing major damage to the bow above the waterline, as well as the timber arrester at the end of the wharf.[9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Tom Mead (1994). Manly Ferries of Sydney Harbour: The Seven Mile Ships. Sydney: Dolphin Books. 
  2. ^ "Ferry Safety Investigation Report: Systemic Investigation Into Incidents of Collision Involving Freshwater Class Vessels Operated by Sydney Ferries Corporation" (PDF). Office of Transport Safety Investigations. 26 October 2006. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  3. ^ a b c Burness, Corlett Australia Pty. Ltd. (July 1975), Manly-Circular Quay Ferry Service - Type Optimisation and Preliminary Design Study for Public Transport Commission of N.S.W., Cremorne, NSW 
  4. ^ Annual Report: 1980-81, Urban Transport Authority of New South Wales 
  5. ^ MV Freshwater
  6. ^ "Ferry highjacker was depressed, court told". Canberra Times. 2 April 1985. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  7. ^ "Man charged over 'hijack' of ferry". The Age. 1 April 1985. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  8. ^ "Happy homecoming for Kiwi Australia drove to drink". Canberra Times. 10 January 1986. Retrieved 8 July 2016. 
  9. ^ "Collision of the Ferry Freshwater With The Manly Wharf" Manly Daily 22 June 2013, accessed 27 July 2013
  10. ^ Ferry Safety Investigation Report - Collision of MV Freshwater with Manly Wharf (PDF), Office of Transport Safety Investigations, retrieved 18 May 2016 

External links[edit]

Media related to Freshwater (ship, 1982) at Wikimedia Commons