A pioneering Williamstown ferry operator says his business is in dire straits after losing a Southgate berth it has had for 13 years.
Williamstown Bay and River Cruises, which started tourist ferry services to Williamstown in 1984, is pleading for Parks Victoria to review its decision not to allow its ferries to use their former permanent berth at Southgate.
Hobsons Bay council last week voted to support the call for a review, noting that it was the only operator with a wheelchair-accessible boat on the Yarra River and that the council “supports fair competition between ferry services to Hobsons Bay”.
Williamstown Bay and River Cruises owner Mark Davy said losing the berth at Southgate was “diabolical” for his business.
“When Southgate opened up, we created the Williamstown Seeker to get under the low bridges, which it does in all tidal conditions,” he said.
“Following that, we built the Yarra shuttle.
“Those two boats run every day, up and down, regardless of the weather.”
The ferry has lost its ticket box at Southgate’s Berth 1 and now has to use a shared berth about 100 metres downstream.
“We’ve sent out more than 250,000 brochures plus [advertised on] the internet labelling Berth 1 as our site,” Mr Davy said.
“I’ve been doing what we can to salvage what we can as a business and I’ve got these placards that you hold to say that we have moved, so that when our intended customers arrive they will know where we are.
“Southgate promenade is the main tourism precinct, we’re not there. We have been there since 1996.
“We’re in diabolical trouble.”
Parks Victoria’s Michael Treanor said strict probity principles were applied throughout the expressions of interest campaign to ensure a “fair and equitable process” for berths.
“A probity advisor, Landell, was appointed to oversee the development and completion of the EOI opportunity,” he said.
“Applicants were awarded their first preference for individual berths and locations, in order of applicant total scores in the context of three berthing allocation principles – safety for all river users, diversity in the final product offering across the suite operators and manoeuvrability of larger vessels at specific berths.
“Parks Victoria is open to meeting with Hobsons Bay council should we be approached.”