Sydney Ferries

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Sydney Ferries
Sydney Ferries hop logo.png
MV Pemulwuy at Misons Point, November 2016 (4).jpg
Pemulwuy at Milsons Point, operating the F4 Cross Harbour service in November 2017
Locale Sydney
Waterway Port Jackson
Transit type Passenger ferry
Owner Transport for NSW
Operator Harbour City Ferries
No. of lines 8
No. of vessels 32

Sydney Ferries is the public transport ferry network serving the Australian city of Sydney, New South Wales. Services operate on Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River. The network is controlled by the New South Wales Government's transport authority, Transport for NSW, and is part of the authority's Opal ticketing system. In 2016-17, 14.7 million passenger journeys were made on the network.


Dee Why in the early 1930s with the Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction

Sydney Ferries can trace its roots as far back as the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove where in 1789, the first ferry service was established from the Cove to the farming settlement of Parramatta. The first ferry, officially named the Rose Hill Packet (otherwise known as 'The Lump'), was crafted by convicts and powered by sails and oars. Trips inland from Sydney Cove to Parramatta typically took up to one week to complete. As time progressed, a series of rowboat ferrymen set up small operations to transport people from either side of Sydney Harbour.

In 1861, the North Shore Ferry Company was established which operated the very first commercial ferry service across Sydney Harbour.[1]

In 1899, ferry services were integrated into Sydney Ferries Limited, which became the world's largest ferry operator by fleet size. After the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in March 1932, ferry patronage dropped almost overnight, decreasing from 30 to 13 million passengers per year.

In 1951, the NSW Government intervened in response to the financial difficulty of the operator and agreed to take over Sydney Ferries Limited. From this time, services were operated by a number of government organisations, including the Public Transport Commission (1972-1980), Urban Transit Authority (1980-1989), State Transit Authority (1989-2004) and Sydney Ferries Corporation (2004-2012).

The Walker Report[edit]

On 3 April 2007 the Premier of New South Wales Morris Iemma appointed Bret Walker, a Senior Counsel, to undertake a commission of inquiry into Sydney Ferries' operations.[2] Submissions to Walker's inquiry were critical of many aspects of the operation of Sydney Ferries from fare levels and infrequent services to the design of gangways and the choice of, potentially unsafe, livery colours for some vessels.[3] Walker's report,[4] delivered in November 2007,[5] was highly critical of the Ferries management, industrial relations and government interference. Walker made several major recommendations including the urgent replacement of the entire ageing fleet of vessels and handing day-to-day operations over to a private sector operator whilst the NSW government retained the fleet and other assets, in public ownership.[6]

In 2008, the NSW Government called for private sector bids to provide ferry services under a services contract,[7] however the government later decided to keep Sydney Ferries as a state owned and operated entity. On 1 January 2009, Sydney Ferries became a NSW Government agency.

In February 2009, a private operator took over the high speed jet cat service to Manly.[6][8] In April 2010, the NSW Government decided the service contract would remain with the Sydney Ferry Corporation.[7]


In 2011, following a change in State Government, it was decided to contract out the operation of Sydney Ferries to the private sector, with the government retaining ownership of both the Balmain Maintenance Facility and the ferry fleet.

On 28 July 2012, Harbour City Ferries, a 50/50 joint venture between Broadspectrum and Transdev Australasia, began operating the services of Sydney Ferries under a seven-year contract.[9][10][11]

Network & services[edit]

Sydney Ferry wharves are identified with a green and white F symbol

Sydney Ferries operates services on eight routes radiating from Circular Quay to:[12]


Sydney Ferries uses the Opal ticketing system.[13] Opal is also valid on bus, train and light rail services but separate fares apply for these modes. The following table lists Opal fares for reusable smartcards and single trip tickets as of 3 July 2017:[14]

Ferry 0–9 km 9 km+
Adult cards $5.88 $7.35
Other cards $2.94^ $3.67^
Adult single trip $7.10 $8.90
Child/Youth single trip $3.50 $4.40

^ = $2.50 for Pensioner/Senior cardholders


The following table lists patronage figures for the network (in millions of journeys) during the corresponding financial year. Australia's financial years start on 1 July and end on 30 June. Major events that affected the number of journeys made or how patronage is measured are included as notes.

Sydney Ferries patronage by financial year
Year 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Patronage 14.5 14.8 14.9 16.0
[note 1]
[note 2]
14.8 15.4 14.7
[note 3]
References [15] [15] [15] [15] [16] [17] [18]
  1. ^ Opal rollout completed in August 2013
  2. ^ International Fleet Review held in October 2013
  3. ^ Figure based on Opal tap on and tap off data. Non-Opal tickets were discontinued in August 2016.
2016-17 Sydney Ferries patronage by line[n.b. 1]
5 202 409
1 314 245
3 145 391
2 033 675
589 689
895 836
1 546 364
2016-17 patronage of Transport for NSW's Sydney services by mode
  1. ^ Figures based on the lines that existed prior to November 2017


The Sydney Ferries fleet consists of 32 vessels divided into 6 classes. As of October 2017, six new Emerald class ferries have been delivered and are entering service. Planning has commenced for four new ferries for Parramatta River services.[19]

Sydney Ferries fleet[20][21]
Class Vessels Service Capacity Routes Image
Freshwater 4 1982-88 1100/1150 Manly SYDNEY映象 - panoramio - fisher0528 (19).jpg
First Fleet 9 1984-86 393/403 Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Eastern Suburbs Sydney Ferry Golden Grove.jpg
RiverCat 7 1992-95 230 Parramatta River MV Betty Cuthbert (28673364896).jpg
HarbourCat 2 1998 150 Inner Harbour, Parramatta MV Anne Sargeant (28599958702).jpg
SuperCat 4 2000-1 250 Eastern Suburbs Supercat 4 at Watsons Bay (edited).jpg
Emerald 6 2017 400 Eastern Suburbs, Inner Harbour MV Bungaree exterior, November 2017.jpg


Sydney Ferries’ Maintenance Facility at Balmain Shipyard in Mort Bay in July 2013

Balmain Shipyard in Mort Bay was established about 1890 by Balmain Ferry Company as a depot, ferry wharf and ferry coaling wharf but through amalgamations and government takeovers, has become the present Sydney Ferries’ Maintenance Facility and Training base and is leased to Harbour City Ferries.


Freshwater at Balmain Shipyard following a collision with Manly Wharf in June 2013

On 12 May 2004 the Louise Sauvage crashed into a wharf at Rose Bay. A small number of minor injuries resulted from the accident, which was blamed on a steering mechanism fault.[22]

In January 2007, one man died after a Sydney RiverCat, the Dawn Fraser, collided with a dinghy.[23][24]

In March 2007, a Sydney Ferries vessel crashed into a whale-watching ship before hitting Pyrmont Bridge in Darling Harbour.

Merinda-Pam Burridge collision[edit]

On Wednesday, 28 March 2007, the Sydney Ferries HarbourCat Pam Burridge collided with a private vessel, the Merinda beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Four people, including a fourteen-year-old girl, were killed in the accident. The Office of Transport Safety Investigations found that the Merinda was not exhibiting the required navigation lights and had not maintained a proper look-out.[25] The summary of the Coroner’s Report noted "It was the error made in failing to illuminate the navigation lights [on the private vessel Merinda] that allowed the other causal factors to align to create a cascading causal effect resulting in the collision.[26] Australian skating champion Sean Carlow was among the survivors of the accident. His mother and coach, former Australian Olympic competitor Liz Cain, had a leg amputated. One of the dead was a skating judge who had officiated at the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships the previous week.[27][28]

Other incidents[edit]

On 23 November 2008, at 17:15 the Lady Northcott ran into the stern of Friendship while the former was berthing behind the latter at Circular Quay. No one was on board the Friendship, and no passengers were injured on the Lady Northcott.

On 6 April 2009 the Lady Northcott crashed into rocks after it overshot Taronga Zoo wharf. No one was injured in the accident, and it was blamed on driver error.[29]

On 11 October 2010 at 08:47 the HarbourCat ferry Anne Sergeant ran into the Kirribilli Jeffrey Street wharf. One passenger was taken to hospital with some other passengers receiving minor injuries.[30]

On 7 November 2010, at approximately 16:30, a speedboat crashed into the Fantasea Spirit (owned and operated by Palm Beach Ferries, operating for Sydney Ferries) 100m from Meadowbank wharf on the Parramatta River, injuring six people. The skipper of the speedboat, a 49-year-old Dundas man, was charged with culpably navigating in a dangerous manner causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) and operating a recreational vessel negligently causing death or GBH.[31]


  1. ^ North Shore Council, "Ferry Services and Travel on the North Side from the days of the Watermen to the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge", "Taking the Ferry", accessed 2 March 2011.
  2. ^ "Crash ferries face special inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. 3 April 2007. 
  3. ^ Action for Public Transport (NSW) (2009-12-06). "Submission to The Special Commission of Inquiry into Sydney Ferries". Action for Public Transport (NSW). Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  4. ^ Bret Walker (2007). "Sydney Ferries Report" (PDF). NSW Transport. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  5. ^ Linton Bessera & Robert Wainwright (2001-11-01). "Sydney Ferries' day of reckoning". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  6. ^ a b Deborah Cornwall (2009-04-20). "Rees paralysed over Sydney Ferry reform". ABC 7.30 Report. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  7. ^ a b The Infrastructure Journal (2011-05-20). "Let the private sector improve Sydney Ferry services". ClaytonUtz. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  8. ^ Battle to be the last fast ferry on the harbour Sydney Morning Herald 9 April 2010
  9. ^ "Harbour City Ferries". Harbour City Ferries. 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  10. ^ Private Operator to take control of ferry services Sydney Morning Herald 3 May 2012
  11. ^ Steady as he goes: ferries sail into private hands Sydney Morning Herald 28 July 2012
  12. ^ Sydney Ferry Map Transport NSW Information
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Opal fares". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 3 July 2017. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Transport for NSW Annual Report 2013-14" (PDF). Transport for NSW. p. 395. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  16. ^ "Transport for NSW Annual Report 2014-15" (PDF). Transport for NSW. p. 131. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  17. ^ "Ferry Patronage". Transport Performance and Analytics - Transport for NSW. December 2016. p. Top Level Charts. Retrieved 27 December 2016. 
  18. ^ "Ferry Patronage - Monthly Comparison". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 13 July 2017. 
  19. ^ "Budget delivers $10.5 billion for public transport". Transport for NSW. 21 June 2016. 
  20. ^ Sydney Ferries Fleet Facts Transport for NSW 15 April 2014
  21. ^ "Hull 082 - 35m Passenger Catamaran" (PDF). Incat. Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  22. ^ OTSI(NSW) (2005-06-30). "Ferry Safety Investigation Report Collision of the Louise Sauvage,Rose Bay Wharf, 12 May 2004" (PDF). Office of Transport Safety Investigation. 
  23. ^ Julia Alder (2008-10-28). "NSW Ferry Master fined for Harbour Death". OHS News. 
  24. ^ "Sydney Ferries 'deeply regret' fatal accident". ABC News Online. 2007-01-14. 
  25. ^ Office of Transport Safety Investigations- Marine Safety Investigation Report "Collision between Sydney Ferries’ Harbourcat Pam Burridge and Motor Launch Merinda" 28 March 2007, accessed 2 May 2011.
  26. ^ Sydney Coroner’s Court Inquest into the deaths of Alan Blinn, James ENGERT, Morgan INNES and Simone MOORE "Summary of Coroner’s Report into the deaths of Alan BLINN, James ENGERT, Morgan INNES and Simone MOORE" 23 February 2010, accessed 9 May 2011.
  27. ^ Rhett Watson (March 29, 2007). "Public search for missing skater". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 9 April 2008. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  28. ^ Brisbane teen still missing - Queensland - BrisbaneTimes -
  29. ^ Master to blame for ferry running on to rocks at zoo | The Daily Telegraph
  30. ^ Robinson, Georgina (11 October 2010). "Ferry crashes into sea wall at Kirribilli". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  31. ^ "Dundas man charged over speedboat crash with Sydney ferry". Daily Telegraph. November 10, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 

External links[edit]