FEATURE | A new ferry network for Tasmania’s Derwent River?


“Sail the Derwent Highway” is the catchphrase promoting a ferry service for the waterways of Australia’s southernmost state capital, Hobart.

A first draft proposal by Incat founder Robert Clifford challenges people to think of the waterway as a roadway that already exists, the equivalent of a bus route on water. All you need is to add the vehicles (ferries) and the stops (the terminals) to take advantage of it.

Sullivan’s Cove

A fleet of mainly small ferries would operate to a network of floating jetties servicing nine jetties up-river from Sullivan’s Cove and seven suburban jetties down-river, transporting commuters from as far north as Gagebrook, as far south as Tranmere and Opossum Bay and across to Blackmans Bay.

The no-frills, no-booking service of 12-metre, 54-passenger ferries operated by one mariner utilising purpose-built covered jetties would allow for fast turnarounds, all weather access and greater frequency for commuters.

The Bellerive to Sullivan’s Cove crossing takes just eight minutes – with turnaround times that’s six crossings an hour. On busy routes larger craft could be utilised, such as the recently delivered Manly Ferries 24-metre vessels, which have two crew and 260 passengers, or the 33-metre with three crew and 375 passengers.

Proposed ferry terminal sites

Floating jetties minimise the impact that tidal rise and fall has on boarding at fixed jetties. They can be built off-site, and simply towed into place as required. Although not in the plan, if the traffic predictions showed demand in different areas, an under-utilised jetty could be moved to a new location.

A non-peak cruise or hop-on-hop-off tourist route would allow Hobart’s rapidly increased visitor numbers access to an on-water tour of Hobart and surrounds and improve the viability of the service.

The Derwent Highway project is not yet fully costed project but it is estimated the floating pontoons would be around AU$1.5 million (US$1 million) each, and that aspect would require support from government.

Compared to a roadway, the entire network of terminals would cost less than the AU$32 million of government funds allocated to the 18 months of traffic disruption for the Brooker Highway upgrade at Elwick and Goodwood of which $25.6 was in federal funds and $6.4 million from the state government (published estimates for funding requirements, not the finished project cost).

Not only could the waterway project get underway at a fraction of the cost of overpasses or underpasses through or around the city, it can be established with zero traffic disruption during the build phase.

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