Maritime Union says a serious Brisbane ferry crash is ‘a matter of time’

It is only ‘a matter of time’ before there is a serious ferry crash in the Brisbane area, the Maritime Union of Australia has claimed to the Brisbane Times. The union said that the sector was awash with unsafe vessels, exhausted staff and inadequate training, while the sector had recently been hit by senior-level resignations. The union said that its members continued to report safety concerns that have been ignored by Transdev, the company that oversees the fleet.

A man was injured on April 30th when a CityHopper ferry hit a pontoon at South Bank terminal 3, leading to 30-minute delays and two services being cancelled. Maritime Union spokesman Damien McGarry said members had reported that the vessel involved in the accident had experienced throttle issues earlier in the day. The

boat was allegedly recommended to be taken off the water, but the ferry master was told to continue operating until the end of the following day, when the vessel could be repaired.

McGarry said there was a shortage of replacement vessels for faulty ferries and there had been similar accidents that had gone unreported, where the boats involved had experienced problems that had gone unchecked or terminals that were unsafe hadn’t been repaired. The union has said that some working days lasted about 15 hours and consisted of split shifts.

Members also said some shifts could last for 11 hours with only a 30-minute meal break. If ferries were for some reason running late or were delayed at terminals while a large number of customers boarded, that would cut into the break time, McGarry said, claiming that some masters had resorted to speeding in certain areas to make up for lost time.

The Maritime Union also said there had been several top-level resignations recently, with the Brisbane-based senior maintenance manager leaving last week, followed by the second-in-charge of maintenance and the head of finance resigning this week. McGarry said that he had also received reports from members that ferry employees were also being rushed through training. “It is a perfect storm of health and safety concerns … it’s only a matter of time before we have a major issue on the river”.

Transdev replied that the current rostering system had been checked for adequate fatigue management and was created in accordance with an agreement endorsed by both the Maritime Union of Australia and Australian Maritime Officers Union. The company also said that new deckhands and masters undertook a comprehensive training and evaluation program before being cleared for duty, and that the management structure had not changed following recent resignations, with the positions being filled.

Transdev said that Brisbane Ferries would continue to operate with uncompromising standards of safety in line with the National Standard for Commercial Vessels, that all incidents on the water would be thoroughly investigated and that Transdev would cooperate fully with any investigation launched by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority or Maritime Safety Queensland.