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
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