Magnetic Island North Queensland
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September 9th 2009
Sunferries “did it for the region”

When the Cruise Whitsundays' vessel booked for the job was deemed unseaworthy, on Monday night, Sunferries diverted two Magnetic Island passenger services, yesterday morning, to collect over 2000 cruise ship passengers moored off Magnetic and unable to embark in Townsville due their ship, The Sun Princess, being too big to dock in the port.

Sunferries' General Manager, Mr Darren McDonald, while apologetic to Magnetic Island passengers for which Sunferries is the designated transport provider, and admitting his actions were without Queensland Transport's permission, said he had no choice. “If we didn't take those passengers cruise ships would not come to Townsville.”

Mr McDonald said that he had attended conferences with cruise ship operators and the message was that, “If a port cannot accommodate them they are not interested. If I didn't take them, cruise ships would not come to Townsville. It wasn't so much about the money for us. I did it for the economic viability of the region.”

Darren McDonald claims that in all, less than 20 Island passengers were left waiting from the two delayed services, the 9.25am and 11.10am from Nelly Bay and that those attempting to connect with flights were monitored and had taxis ordered for them and had all caught their planes.

Darren McDonald said he'd taken a slap on the wrist from Queensland Transport over the issue and sincerely apologised to Magnetic Island passengers claiming, “It wont happen again.”

“The next cruise ship is in February and at that stage we will ensure everything we can do to minimise the impact.”

Darren McDonald said he was not permitted to take the Island passengers out to the cruise ship as part of an extended return trip to Townsville.

“Ninety-five of those cruise passengers ended up visiting Magnetic Island,” he said, adding, “A cruise ship that size is the equivalent of 12 passenger jets landing at the same time.”

Darren McDonald urged locals to contact Sunferries to be part of their sms alert warning system in case of future ferry timetable disruptions.

The situation comes in the context of the planned Townsville Ocean Terminal project falling over due to the collapse of its developer City Pacific. The Premier, Anna Bligh has more recently claimed that the terminal will go ahead.

Magnetic Times has sought a comment from Queensland Transport but is yet to receive a response.

Story: George Hirst

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Sunferries “did it for the region”
marlene trenerry
September 8th 2009
Sunferries could have at least contacted the local radio stations and ask them to make announcements on their early morning breakfast shows so that people KNEW, the only people who knew were those who have subscribed to have emergency sms messages sent to them, not all of us have mobile phones, also to put it on their website!! are we supposed to check it each time we want to travel. It was not only 'locals' who were 'inconvenienced' but island visitors who maybe had planes or coaches to catch. NOT GOOD ENOUGH SUNFERRIES!!!!
September 8th 2009
I dont know why all the fuss is about, if a train is delayed you wait until the next one, when the planes are delayed you wait until you get on the next one.
Doing the maths here is easy, Sunferries operates on average 18 return services a day (or 36 oneway services a day) so based on 36 services x 7 days x 52 weeks = 13,104 services per year. I take my hat off to Sunferries for trying to support the Island and the Townsville businesses in this economic climate... Go Sunferries.
September 9th 2009
I think it would have probably been a better thing for the region if Sunferries had not come to the rescue - What better way to demonstrate that Townsville needs an ocean liner facility? This detour from normal ferry services is in no way justified. Whilst I am not one of the anti-Sunferries brigade I do question their judgement on this matter. Sunferries has a Qld Transport regulated obligation to travellers to and from the island and this should be upheld at every cost apart from safety. I'm sure that their liscence agreament to operate a Qld Transport service service says just that! Sunferries were extremely quick to condemn the barge company when they did not meet the criteria a few years ago!!!
So Sunferries think that they mildly disrupted only 20 peoples journey that day? Ok well lets just say that they lost those 20 passengers one way fares - that's about $310 max loss in fares. Come clean and tell us what the financial consideration for transporting 2000 cruise passengers was and stop trying to bullshit regular users of your awfull service with this terribly transparent propaganda!!! Now how much was it again? Oh yeah...2000 X $15.50 = $31,000.00!!!
Fellow commuters please don't take this rubbish on board. The disruption to our service was purely (and very selfishly) a financial decission.
Shame on you Sunferries.
September 9th 2009
It's a bit rich connecting the failure of a cruise ship company's visit plans (the ferry was "deemed unseaworthy" - Yeah, right!) to the complete government fabulist claims of a "cruise ship terminal". Can't we all get over it? The proposed cruise ship terminal has only been planned to be part of an enormous excavate/reclaim project to produce a 700 dwelling canal estate. It's the canal that CityPacific was going to build - and which presumably is now just a pipedream. There's no way that a little cruise ship terminal can be built alone near the Casino. Forget it and move on.
September 9th 2009
Should the question be asked how many Cruise ships arrive in the port of Townsville ? Darren McDonald made the right decision at the right time when he was on the spot so he should get a slap on the back. Okay it was an inconvience to some of the regular Sunferries passengers and I would not belittle their frustration, but on the other hand there would also have been many more passengers on the cruise ship who would not have had the opportunity to come ashore at Townsville. Well done Darren !!
Fed Up!
September 9th 2009
To say that "Less than 20 passengers were inconvenienced" demonstrates Sunferries arrogance. Many people knew by SMS, however, knowing does not equal not being inconvenienced. Dept Transport obviously thought it was a wrong call. I DO understand the reasons for Sunferries decision, however, I think people get so annoyed about it as Sunferries are rarely upfront when problems occur. I phoned yesterday to ask why the ferries were cancelled, and asked again on my way home - both times I was answered with a combination of evasion and downright lies! The last time "Operational Reasons" was cited as the reason for cancelling a ferry, it emerged that the ferry had been sent to Palm Island to take extra people to the Show! Again not told the truth when I asked. Give us the service we pay for or be upfront about it. Service also includes patrolling the ferry on the school run (not having to rely on a fellow passenger as was the case this morning, who had to tell students to behave - crew too busy chatting among themselves to see what was going on).
September 9th 2009
All I can say is that I am glad it was not a commuting ferry that I was catching. It is okay for 'retired' people to say what is all the fuss about - I would like to see their comments if they had been working (or trying to get to work) and a scheduled ferry had been cancelled. In general, I agree with the sentiments of 'Fed Up'. And, with respect, at the moment why bother to bring people into the Townsville CBD - not much to see. I have, to my extreme embarrassment, been asked on two occasions by international visitors "Where is Townsville" to which I have answered "You are standing in it". The so-called Mall is a disgrace. I would be wanting to steer people away under the current conditions.
Chris C
September 9th 2009
I'll be fascinated to see how the Dept of Transport view what seems to me to be a breech of their service contract by sunferries.

Let's face it - Sunferries ignored their regular customers because there was more money to be made servicing the cruise ship. Good for cash-flow but bad for the business in the long run
September 10th 2009
Here are some interesting figures that the Island residence and Townsville locals who want to visit should be aware of. Sunferries is subsidized by the government to the tune of $1,185,555.47 per year to provide public transport (you can obtain this information from Queensland Transport annual reports, this is the largest subsidy of any ferry company in the state), in addition they receive $229,000 for school transport. They also charge $93 for a 10 trip ticket. In comparison the BITS ferry service (the Russell Island Ferry service on Moreton Bay) which runs a 30 min 5 stop service receive $973,307 and charge $63/10 trips and $14.60 return, the Stradbroke flier ($76,408.50 subsidy) $60/10 trips $19 return, the Stradbroke Water Taxi ($54,400) $60/10 trips $17 return. And finally if you live in Brisbane you can catch the Rivercat from Brett's Wharf to UQ, a 60 minute trip, for $27.50/week, this has a 50% subsidy i.e. without a subsidy $55/week.

Townsville to Magnetic Island, the most expensive 8 km of public transport in the state and the most unreliable.
Chris C
September 10th 2009
Thanks Zac -= well put!
September 13th 2009
Priceless Zac!!!

Wonder where comment from Darren McDonald is now? I challenge you to come clean with service users!!!
Maybe you could seek further comment George? What was the financial consideration for this change "did it for the region" decission?
September 14th 2009
Was wrong and Sunferries know it. What about those who arent regular commuters, say backpackers and OS and interstate visitors? My visiting daughter was lucky a regular ferry customer warned me about the cancellation, otherwise she would have missed her flight home to Melbourne, and possibly her start in a new job the next day. Not good enough!
September 14th 2009
Very very disappointed that Sunferries consider the island transfer service so unimportant. Of course many travellers were inconvenienced. It's a very narrow vision to take that is extremely frustrating for many.

What of the people who rely on this service to catch a flight? Not just a domestic flight but when connecting with an international flight? It's not accetable to say, get the next flight, train, bus or whatever. Some of us actually rely on this service to get to work, be it in Townsville or New York. By Sunferries taking this narrow minded action, it forces residents to waste even more time taking an earlier ferry than usual 'just in case' services are cancelled.

Extremely disappointed resident.

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