Fullers stands by Auckland ferry cancellations, calls for restrictions to cruise ships in Ferry Basin

Fullers is standing by its cancellation of several Auckland ferry services last week, saying cruise ship movement in the Ferry Basin can put customers and staff at risk of "catastrophic" consequences. 

The company has also proposed beginning the restriction on cruise ship movement at 6am rather than 7:30am, in order to avoid ongoing conflict between ferries and cruise ships in Auckland's Ferry Basin to Princes Wharf. 

Last Tuesday, commuters were outraged when Fullers cancelled a number of ferry services due to "cruise ship traffic" near the city's wharves. It's understood other services were also delayed due to cruise ship congestion in the Ferry Basin.

Fullers360 CEO Mike Horne has hit back at its critics, saying the company will not compromise the health and safety of its customers and staff.

"It is fundamental for the safety of our customers and staff that we have a standard operating procedure that restricts ferry movements in and out of the basin while cruise ships are thrusting and while the water is still turbulent due to cruise ship berthing," Horne said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Ferry movements during this time can result in extreme and unpredictable movement of the vessel, which puts our customers and our staff at risk... the expectation that we should be able to drive our ferries while wake and thrust from a cruise ship is still active is unacceptable. 

"If one of our ferries was to drive through this wake and the thrust from a cruise ship was to impact another vessel or structure, or suffer some sort of violent movement, the results could be catastrophic."

The CEO also noted the difficulties imposed by the new breakwater and ongoing construction near Queens Wharf, which have altered tidal wave flow and reduced navigable water space respectively. Ships' increasing size and thrusting power also pose issues to vessels. 

Horne said that if cruise ships are not restricted into the harbour no later than 6am, the limited water space will spell continued disruption for early morning ferry passengers.

Last Wednesday, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called Fullers' cancellations "unacceptable", arranging a meeting with the company, the Harbourmaster, Auckland Transport, the Ports of Auckland and elected representatives.

"The inconvenience caused to Aucklanders is not acceptable. I also made clear my expectations that I want to see this issue resolved as soon as possible," Goff said in a statement.

Goff requested for a working party, chaired by the Harbourmaster, to be convened, involving Fullers, Auckland Transport, Ports of Auckland and the cruise ship industry.

Moving forward, the group will continue to investigate the proposed extension to the 7:30am to 9am weekday restriction on cruise liner berthing. The "appropriate safety parameters" for ferries while cruise ships are berthing will also be addressed.

Fullers360 has expressed its support of the initiative requested by Goff.

The company has commissioned a third-party review of its decision not to operate while cruise ships are thrusting. It has also provided examples of the "unpredictable and potentially damaging effect of 'wash' from cruise ship thrusters".