The next generation of ferries set to carry millions of passengers on the Parramatta River will be built in Australia, after the rising safety concerns of ferries operating along the river.

This follows rising concerns involving specific safety issues of the River Class and the approximately 43 defects that pushed their service commencement dates out by well over a year, as the government of New South Wales (NSW) said.

The NSW Government awarded the construction tender to Richardson Devine Marine Shipbuilders in Hobart. Construction of the seven new vessels will commence in July.

The seven new vessels will replace seven RiverCat vessels, which are ready to retire after 30 years of service. According to NSW government statement, issues that plagued the River Class included:

  • Not being able to fit under some bridges with passengers on the top deck
  • Asbestos
  • Sub-standard fit and finish
  • Wheelhouse window angles making night operations dangerous
  • Engine stalling, and potential of fires or electrocution caused by sub-standard electrical equipment and sub-standard steering components.

The new Parramatta Class ferries have been designed by naval engineers Incat Crowthers, based in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and their design will be a vast improvement on the 10 overseas -made River Class vessels that entered service in October 2021, as NSW characteristically mentions.

While aesthetically similar, the new Parramatta-class vessels won’t include upper deck seating that was deemed too dangerous to be used when passing under Camellia Railway Bridge and Gasworks Bridge.

The new ferries will also be future-proofed, allowing for future conversion to electric propulsion as battery, charging and engine technologies improve.

Ferry engines are usually replaced after 5 years of service, providing a number of opportunities to make these upgrades during the 25-30 year working life of the Parramatta Class ferries.

The RiverCat vessels were the first passenger ferries to chart a course all the way to Parramatta wharf in 1993.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said: “The NSW Government is committed to building things here again to create jobs, boost manufacturing and end the failed offshore imports of the previous Liberal Government. This commitment will produce Aussie-made NSW-designed ferries equipped with modern propulsion technology to ferry passengers well into the future.”

NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen said: “The RiverCats have served the Parramatta River faithfully for over 30 years, these new ferries will have the same 200 person capacity, while using 40% less diesel. It’s exciting to be supporting Australian manufacturing, with ferries that are ready for a net-zero future.”