Sydney Ferries

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This article is about the current Sydney ferry operator. For the 1861-1951 ferry operator, see Sydney Ferries Limited.
Sydney Ferries
Sydney Ferry Supply and Collaroy.jpg
Supply & Collaroy at Circular Quay in July 2013
Agency overview
Formed 2004
Jurisdiction New South Wales
Headquarters Sydney
Minister responsible
Agency executive
Parent agency Transport for New South Wales
Website Sydney Ferries

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 2015-16, 15.4 million passenger journeys were made on the network.

Network & services[edit]

Geographical representation of Sydney Ferry routes
Sydney Ferry wharves are identified with a green and white F symbol

Sydney Ferries operates services on seven routes radiating from Circular Quay to:[1]


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.


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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4] Walker's report,[5] delivered in November 2007,[6] 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.[7]

In 2008, the NSW Government called for private sector bids to provide ferry services under a services contract,[8] 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.[7][9] In April 2010, the NSW Government decided the service contract would remain with the Sydney Ferry Corporation.[8]


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.[10][11][12]


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.

2010-11[13] 2011-12[13] 2012-13[13] 2013-14[13] 2014-15[14] 2015-16[15]
14.5 14.8 14.9 16.0[note 1][note 2] 14.8 15.4
  1. ^ Opal rollout completed in August 2013
  2. ^ International Fleet Review held in October 2013


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.[16]

In January 2007, one man died after a Sydney RiverCat, the Dawn Fraser, collided with a dinghy.[17][18]

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

Sydney Harbour fatal ferry crash[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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21][22]

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.[23]

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.[24]

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.[25]


Sydney Ferries fleet[26]
Vessel Class Service Capacity Speed Length Displacement Routes Origin of name
Collaroy Freshwater 1988 1150 15 kn 70.4 m 1140 t Manly Collaroy Beach
Freshwater Freshwater 1982 1100 15 kn 70.4 m 1150 t Manly Freshwater Beach
Narrabeen Freshwater 1984 1100 15 kn 70.4 m 1150 t Manly Narrabeen Beach
Queenscliff Freshwater 1983 1150 15 kn 70.4 m 1140 t Manly Queenscliff Beach
Alexander First Fleet 1985 393 12 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island Alexander, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Borrowdale First Fleet 1985 393 12 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island Borrowdale, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Charlotte First Fleet 1985 393 12 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island Charlotte, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Fishburn First Fleet 1985 403 12 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island Fishburn, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Friendship First Fleet 1986 403 12 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island Friendship, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Golden Grove First Fleet 1986 403 12 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island Golden Grove, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Scarborough First Fleet 1986 403 12 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island Scarborough, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Sirius First Fleet 1984 393 12 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island HMS Sirius, flagship of the 1787 First Fleet
Supply First Fleet 1984 393 12 kn 25.38 m 105 t Inner Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Cockatoo Island HMS Supply, part of the 1787 First Fleet
Lady Herron Lady Class 1979 554 11 kn 38.71 m 287 t Taronga Zoo Wife of Sir Leslie Herron, former Lieutenant Governor of NSW
Lady Northcott Lady Class 1974 815 12 kn 43.79 m 383 t Taronga Zoo, Manly Relief Vessel & Cruises Wife of Sir John Northcott, former Governor of NSW
Betty Cuthbert RiverCat 1992 230 22 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Betty Cuthbert, Australian World Champion athlete
Dawn Fraser RiverCat 1992 230 22 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Dawn Fraser, Australian World Champion swimmer
Evonne Goolagong RiverCat 1993 230 22 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Evonne Goolagong, Australian World Champion tennis player
Marlene Mathews RiverCat 1993 230 22 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Marlene Mathews, Australian World Champion athlete
Marjorie Jackson RiverCat 1993 230 22 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Marjorie Jackson, Australian World Champion athlete
Nicole Livingstone RiverCat 1995 230 22 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Nicole Livingstone, Australian World Champion swimmer
Shane Gould RiverCat 1993 230 22 kn 36.8 m 41 t Parramatta River Shane Gould, Australian World Champion swimmer
Anne Sargeant HarbourCat 1998 150 22 kn 29.6 m 35 t Inner Harbour, Parramatta Anne Sargeant, netballer
Pam Burridge HarbourCat 1998 150 22 kn 29.6 m 35 t Inner Harbour, Parramatta Pam Burridge, surfer
Louise Sauvage SuperCat 2001 250 26 kn 37.76 m 49 t Eastern Suburbs Louise Sauvage, paralympian
Saint Mary MacKillop SuperCat 2000 250 26 kn 37.76 m 49 t Eastern Suburbs Saint Mary MacKillop, Australia's first saint, cannonised in 2010
SuperCat18 SuperCat 2001 250 26 kn 37.76 m 49 t Eastern Suburbs No name decided for this vessel
Susie O’Neill SuperCat 2000 250 26 kn 37.76 m 49 t Eastern Suburbs Susie O’Neill, swimmer
Catherine Hamlin Unknown Testing Approx. 400 Inner Harbour Catherine Hamlin, doctor working in Ethiopia
Fantasea Charter vessels[26][27]
Vessel Class Service Capacity Speed Length Displacement Routes Notes
Fantasea Spirit Fantasea 2002 222 20 kn 23.9 m 32 t Parramatta River Charter Vessel
Fantasea Crystal Fantasea 2002 222 20 kn 23.9 m 32 t Parramatta River Charter Vessel
Fantasea Sensation Fantasea 2002 220 20 kn 23.9 m 32 t Parramatta River Charter Vessel

In November 2014, the government announced six new ferries would be ordered.[28][29] They will operate on the Inner Harbour routes and are designed to look similar to the First Fleet class vessels. The ferries can carry approximately 400 passengers. In September 2015, the contract to build the ferries was awarded to Incat.[30]The first ferry was expected to enter service in late 2016.[31] However, the entry into service was delayed due to problems uncovered during testing that require modifications to be made to the vessel.[32]

Planning has commenced for four new ferries for Parramatta River services.[33]



Sydney Ferries uses the Opal ticketing system.[34] 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:

Ferry 0–9 km 9 km+
Adult cards $5.74 $7.18
Other cards $2.87^ $3.59^
Adult single trip $6.90 $8.70
Child/Youth single trip $3.40 $4.30

^ = $2.50 for Pensioner/Senior cardholders

Card fares as of 4 January 2015. Single trip fares as of 5 September 2016.[35][36]


  1. ^ Sydney Ferry Map Transport NSW Information
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Crash ferries face special inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. 3 April 2007. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Bret Walker (2007). "Sydney Ferries Report" (PDF). NSW Transport. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  6. ^ Linton Bessera & Robert Wainwright (2001-11-01). "Sydney Ferries' day of reckoning.". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  7. ^ a b Deborah Cornwall (2009-04-20). "Rees paralysed over Sydney Ferry reform.". ABC 7.30 Report. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  8. ^ a b The Infrastructure Journal (2011-05-20). "Let the private sector improve Sydney Ferry services.". ClaytonUtz. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  9. ^ Battle to be the last fast ferry on the harbour Sydney Morning Herald 9 April 2010
  10. ^ "Harbour City Ferries". Harbour City Ferries. 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-20. 
  11. ^ Private Operator to take control of ferry services Sydney Morning Herald 3 May 2012
  12. ^ Steady as he goes: ferries sail into private hands Sydney Morning Herald 28 July 2012
  13. ^ a b c d "Transport for NSW Annual Report 2013-14" (PDF). Transport for NSW. p. 395. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  14. ^ "Transport for NSW Annual Report 2014-15" (PDF). Transport for NSW. p. 131. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  15. ^ "Ferry Patronage". Transport Performance and Analytics - Transport for NSW. December 2016. p. Top Level Charts. Retrieved 27 December 2016. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Julia Alder (2008-10-28). "NSW Ferry Master fined for Harbour Death.". OHS News. 
  18. ^ "Sydney Ferries 'deeply regret' fatal accident.". ABC News Online. 2007-01-14. 
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Rhett Watson (March 29, 2007). "Public search for missing skater". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on April 9, 2008. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  22. ^ Brisbane teen still missing - Queensland - BrisbaneTimes -
  23. ^ Master to blame for ferry running on to rocks at zoo | The Daily Telegraph
  24. ^ Robinson, Georgina (11 October 2010). "Ferry crashes into sea wall at Kirribilli". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  25. ^ "Dundas man charged over speedboat crash with Sydney ferry". Daily Telegraph. November 10, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  26. ^ a b Sydney Ferries Fleet Facts Transport for NSW 15 April 2014
  27. ^ Home Palm Beach Ferries
  28. ^ Six iconic new modern ferries for Sydney Harbour Transport for NSW 28 November 2014
  29. ^ New Sydney ferries set to sail from 2016 Sydney Morning Herald 28 November 2014
  30. ^ "Australian shipyard to build Sydney's new ferries". Transport for NSW. 23 September 2015. 
  31. ^ "Sydney's Ferry Fleet". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  32. ^ O'Sullivan, Matt (30 January 2017). "Sydney's first new government-owned ferries in years hit bumpy waters". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  33. ^ "Budget delivers $10.5 billion for public transport". Transport for NSW. 21 June 2016. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ "New fares from 4 January 2015". Transport for NSW. 5 December 2014. Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. 
  36. ^ "Fares and benefits". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 13 September 2016. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Sydney Ferries at Wikimedia Commons