Futistic Ferries

Transport Solutions - Our Ferries

Let's apply some all-Australian lateral thinking and innovation based on logic. This article covers the Futistic Ferry. We hope with innovation and thought-provoking ideas and action for the future. The Futuristic Ferry is but one integrated part of the combined solution of Sydney Futistic Transport System.

ImageThe aim is to provide a ferry service for Sydney that is friendly, frequent, fast and efficient all at a reduced cost. Clearly this has to be very different from the present.

The following are conceptual ideas presented by David Murphy (Manly Councilor) and Hugh Walker with the aim to inspire further ideas, input and cooperation. Let's make it a community think tank and action plan.

The best way to get the woes of Sydney transport from daily front page news is to fix the problem. This requires cooperative input from all, particularly the users, who know the problems, but are rarely consulted.

A city transport system and solution can only be achieved by the complete integration of all possible forms of transport. Sydney Ferries are a part but should play a far greater part than it does at present. Sydney Harbour is by far the greatest area of transport corridor in Sydney, and it's free and beautiful. No railways or roads to build. Relate this to the many billions of dollars now allocated to roads and rail, but none for ferries.

Ferry travel is overwhelmingly voted as the most desired travel transport. many say it is therapeutic and acts as an immediate stress relief from the daily grind. Ferries reduce health and medical costs.

To get more people to travel by ferry across the vast area of the Sydney metropolis would also greatly relieve the stresses upon all the other forms of transport. The aim in particular is the individual car.

There are two categories of Sydney transport users. "Commuter", in getting the workers to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. "General", where the experience and enjoyment is the greater consideration. This particularly applies to ferries on Sydney Harbour to relax and just soak in the harbour and the beauty. This particularly for our tourists.

To postulate a path to the future for Sydney Ferries, it is imperative to know what has go us to where we are now, what were the past ferries and the logic of the time for these; the present ferries and the logic for these.

The past ferries were predominately double-ended (driven equally both ways) clearly seem as the best logic for that time. Also, single hull as that was the accepted design of the time. They were predominately of the same design for a given time. Before the Harbour Bridge, the Quay was very busy.

The present ferries by comparison are of many and varied types totaling 31 over eight different designs. (See attached GENERAL AND COMPARATIVE INFORMATION). The predominance of these is now single-ended catamarans requiring each to do a 180 degree turn at the Quay as well as other wharves. The latest ferries are the higher speed catamarans clearly to satisfy customer demands for faster services.

Although there appears to be no logic to the present period, it most likely came about by different governments and departments trying a bit of this and a bit of that driven by the ballot box and demands for better service. The result has to be one very inefficient, difficult to manage and maintain. The present service is heavily subsidised by the tax payers of the state; no longer acceptable. However, from the present conglomerate a lot can be learnt for a better path to the future.

All decisions and direction for the future has to be driven for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction. The attached GENERAL AND COMPARATIVE INFORMATION has included a simple efficiency comparison factor to relate the comparative cost of fuel consumption per ferry passenger capacity per unit of speed, thus distance traveled.

Ironically this shows that the older ferries of the Lady Class by this comparison are more the four times more efficient than the later Jet Cat Class.


The Quay ferry traffic customer service, efficiency and density can be greatly increased by standardization of ferry design to include for loading from the end as well as the sides of he existing wharves. The below is a picture story of one such ferry service for the future. The future below could more than double present traffic.


From the early inception of Sydney engine-driven ferries, following the original row boats and sail boats, they have been of double-ended design. that is, they are bidirectional where entering and leaving the Quay is simple and fast. The advantages of this would appear simple logic. Why today have all the new ferries therefore been single-ended requiring each to undertake a 180 degree turn with the inherent inefficiencies of fuel and time.

Let's go back to the logic of the past with all double-ended design; the present logic of all being catamarans; the future logic of all having a common design.

New Concept Drawing Based on the Present Cats

Elevation and general arrangement view

Inside seating arrangement view

Plan view

The future Ferry Master has complete control of the vessel from a single control station with a 360 degree view. The design is such that from this position all necessary vessel external operations will be in view including docking, loading and unloading, whilst internal be by CCTV. For direction change the ferry master on a swivel chair simply swivels from one direction drive console to the other direction drive console.

The master is solely totally in control including all docking by utilizing common technology of today for the automatic positioning and securing of the vessel. This would even include when parking a vessel at the Quay at the end of the wharf to raise or lower the end docking platform similar to the remote control of a garage door.

Inherent, intrinsic, in the safety and reliability of this design is duplication of every vessel function.
The ferry construction is seen of aluminium catamaran hull, with bulbous bowers for hull and speed efficiency. These bowers have been shown to improve efficiency and speed of ships for 50 years but only now are being applied to small vessels. They reduce bower wave and wake as needed for the Parramatta River.

It is envisaged the technology of the vessel will be based on all electric drives with power supplied by modular diesel generators similar to those used in latest diesel generators similar to those used in latest very efficient hybrid diesel electric buses. Electric drives require minimum maintenance, are more efficient over varying power and torque ranges than diesel motors, all as required for these efficient versatile vessel.

Four modular diesel generators would e employed to provide all vessel power requirements thus no other auxiliary would be required. One or two generators would be required for low-speed running with three to four for high.


Thought-Stimulating Design Ideas Covering Various Sizes


It is envisaged only two or three ferry-size types be sufficient to service Sydney Harbour, not all the sizes as shown here.

It is envisaged these new versatile ferries could service both the inner harbour as well as the outer harbour, by their design requirements and efficient variable speed capabilities.

As previously mentioned, there are two requirements for a transport system to satisfy being "Commuter" requiring frequent fast services, and "General" of being more leisurely holiday type service to soak in the beauty of Sydney Harbour. It is envisaged the design presented here by application will satisfy both.

Having said all that there is much nostalgia for the Manly Freshwater Cass that would be difficult to replace.


Sydney Harbour is the most beautiful natural transport corridor possible. It is free, owned by us all, no land to acquire and no roads, railways or tunnels to build.

There are ferry services to Watson Bay, Rose Bay and Mosman Bay.

Why not a ferry service to The Spit?

A transport interchange to underground electric buses and ferry, together with a high-level bridge would solve the problem of The Split, all at no additional pubic cost.

Much of the research for this article was gained through the Internet. The three main websites from which information and inspiration was obtained were www.navalarchitect.com.au, The Sydney Ferry Corporation site and Google Earth.

Contact: David Murphy (Manly Councillor) email: david.murphy at manly.nsw.gov.au
phone 0418673114

Hugh Walker email: hughwalker at bigpond.com
phone: 02 99487814

Concept Drawing of Sydney Futuristic Ferry Automatic Docking System

Design criteria for the automatic docking of catamaran ferries.

The design thought process for an automatic docking system is guided by the current proven manual catamaran docking procedure. This is by the deckhand throwing a rope to latch to a shore bollard, then engages this rope to the ferry bollard in such a way as to allow some slippage. The rope takes the load of the ferry to gently slow forward motion. The distance tolerance is about one meter, maximum two meters. As the ferry then manoeuvres the deckhand takes up the slack to shorten the distance of the rope from the ferry bollard to the shore bollard until the ferry is in the correct docking and secured position. This as demonstrated can be a slow hit and miss process. These actions are taken as a guide for the design of a totally automatic docking process. Docking time 15 seconds regularly every time.


It is envisaged that the docking platform would be made of steel or concrete as they are now. If concrete, the actual docking area as below would be best profiled in steel or aluminum.

The method of engaging the catamaran has to be a smooth single fast operation, to automatically take place when the catamaran is within 2 meters from the docking platform.

The catamarans forward speed and position is gently corrected, brought to a stop, and secured.

Secure positioning is achieved by the vessel's two hydraulic arms finding and engaging with the shore bollards at the required distance. This is also the no-power docking system.

This docking system is designed to be readily accessible, inexpensive to make and maintain.


Picture Story of Automatic Docking Procedure




Ferry Automatically, Precisely and Securely Locked::
In addition to the above, it is anticipated the futuristic ferry would have electronic automatic speed control and guidance docking with accuracy of centimeters rather than meters as above.

Summary of Our Sydney Ferries

Sydney and its harbour have by nature's gift the best of the entire world for a world-class ferry system, so why isn't it happening?

A ferry system is and should be the most efficient means of conveying passengers, so why isn't it happening?

With the technology of today, a ferry system can have the efficiency of automatic ticket sales, ticket inspection, automatic docking, loading, and unloading, so why do we see an army of ferry workers trying to operate our mind-bogglingly inefficient antiquated ferry system?

The engines of our smaller ferries are on the order of the engines of our bendy buses up to say the engines of double-B trucks, so why is there an engineer on each ferry?

Would the trucking industry accept an engineer sitting in the cab of each truck?

Even the largest Manly Ferries have engines about the size of the mining industry ore hauling dump trucks driven by women so why are on-board engineers necessary even for these ferries?

would the mining industry accept an engineer getting a free ride on each dump truck?

The engines, power, and weight of our freight trains are larger than the engines of the Manly ferries and operate generally with a total crew of one or two, so why is there an on-board crew of 6 for each Manly ferry?

This is in addition to a crew of 3 or 4 on the wharf (which could be automated), making a total of 9 to 10, so is it no wonder we can't afford the cost of the inefficiencies of such a system?

Sydney commuters and Sydney Harbour deserve a modern inexpensive fast and efficient ferry system to all arms of the harbour, from Many and all points to Parramatta.

The existing ferry system is ancient and inbred so what we have is a bureaucratic culture of inefficiency and jobs for the boys (and girls) from the top down as has recently been proven by the asking of the top, the Ferry Corporations Chief, with his fingers in the cookie jar.

The Sydney Ferry System could be not only the greatest commuting system in the world but also the greatest tourist attraction in the world to show off the greatest harbour in the world.

The taxpayers of New South Wales are being akin for a ride, a different and very expensive ride than the one we deserve and that is necessary for the betterment and promotion of Sydney.

If this involves taking on the bureaucrats, the government, the unions, or whoever is standing in the way of a better world and better Sydney, so be it, as everything in the end has to be for the greater good of the majority.

Let this website be the catalyst and motivator, the action point if you like to assure we get the ferry and transport system readily and logically achievable and one we deserve. Why can't this innovation be the basis of an all-Australian Industry earning export dollars for the benefit of all Australians?

This information was mainly compiled from the Sydney Ferries Corporation website, www.sydneyferries.info(external link).

SYDNEY FERRY - General and Comparative Information

First Fleet Class - Quantity: 9 Friendship Statistics

Length/Width 25 meters/10 meters approximately
Displacement 83 tonnes
Speed 11-12 knots
Engine Power 2x289kW
Crew 3
Fuel Consumption - run cost 65L/hr - 65/296/11 = .02
Fuel Capacity 8,500 litres
Seating;/inside/outside/total 168/100/268 approximately
Registered capacity 296


Lady Class - Quantity: 2 Lady Northcott Statistics

Length/Width 42.5 meters/9.5 meters approximately
Displacement 383 tonnes
Speed 11-12 knots
Engine Power 2x604.2kW
Crew 4
Fuel Consumption - run cost 95L/hr - 95/811/11 .011
Fuel Capacity 21,600 litres
Seating;/inside/outside/total -
Registered capacity 811

Note:The most efficient.

Freshwater Class - Quantity: 4 Narrabeen Statistics

Length/Width 69.54meters/12.5 meters approximately
Displacement 1140 tonnes
Speed 12 knots
Engine Power 2x2238kW
Crew 6
Fuel Consumption - run cost 350L/hr 350/1100/12 = .027
Fuel Capacity 21,600 litres
Seating;/inside/outside/total 790/150/940 approximately
Registered capacity 1100

The Lady Herron is similar to but smaller than this.

RiverCat Class - Quantity: 7 Shane Gould Statistics

Length/Width 34.99 meters/10.5 meters approximately
Displacement 58 tonnes
Speed 22 knots
Engine Power 2x372.8kW
Crew 3
Fuel Consumption - run cost 90L/hr - 90/230/22 = .018 best cat
Fuel Capacity 5,500 litres
Seating;/inside/outside/total -
Registered capacity 230


SuperCat Class - Quantity: 4 Mary McKillop Statistics

Length/Width 34.2 meters/10.5 meters approximately
Displacement 60 tonnes
Speed 24 knots
Engine Power 2x600kW
Crew 3-4
Fuel Consumption - run cost 138L/hr - 138/250/24 = .023
Fuel Capacity 3,000 litres
Seating;/inside/outside/total -
Registered capacity 250


HarbourCat Class - Quantity: 2 Pam Burridge Statistics

Length/Width 27.14 meters/10.5 meters approximately
Displacement 34 tonnes
Speed 22 knots
Engine Power 2x305kW
Crew 2
Fuel Consumption - run cost 138L/hr - 138/150/22 = .042
Fuel Capacity 2,200 litres
Seating;/inside/outside/total -
Registered capacity 150


JetCat Class - Quantity: 3 Blue Fin Statistics

Length/Width 32.09 meters/10.5 meters approximatelytext
Displacement 91 tonnes
Speed 30 knots
Engine Power 2x1680kW
Crew 4
Fuel Consumption - run cost 350L/hr - 350/268/30 = .044 highest
Fuel Capacity 8,830 litres
Seating;/inside/outside/total -
Registered capacity 268


Total Quantity 31 over 8 substantially different types.
Note: Run cost is a factor relating fuel consumption to passenger distance by dividing fuel consumption by passenger capacity and speed to give a rough comparison of fuel consumption/efficiency between the vessels. Lowest figure is best.
Please note that the oldest class and the oldest design, the Lady Class, are the most efficient running ferries in the fleet. On top of that they are also the most practical, stately, comfortable and relaxing in the fleet and thus need to be cherished and preserved as such and take pride of place on our harbor. They are our Grange Hermitage of the fleet.

Created by Hugh Walker. Last Modification: Friday 18 of August, 2017 12:11:05 AEST by Hugh Walker.