Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has labelled Fullers' ferry cancellations "unacceptable" after "cruise ship traffic" at Princes Wharf on Tuesday saw several services called off, leading to outrage among delayed commuters.
On Wednesday, Goff arranged a meeting with Fullers, the Harbourmaster, Auckland Transport, the Ports of Auckland and elected representatives including Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye and Chair of the Waiheke Local Board, Cath Handley.
"I made clear my expectations that recent ferry cancellations were unacceptable and the causes had to be addressed collaboratively by the parties directly involved," Goff said in a statement.
"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.
"The discussions were positive, and progress was made. I have asked for a working party to be convened urgently, chaired by the Harbourmaster, and involving Fullers, Auckland Transport, Ports of Auckland and the cruise ship industry."
Moving forward, the group will investigate whether the current cruise liner berthing restriction from 7:30am to 9am on weekdays should be extended, meaning cruise ships are prohibited from berthing in the city during peak commuting hours.
The "appropriate safety parameters" for ferries when cruise ships are berthing will also be addressed, as well as the need for "a better communication mechanism" between the relevant parties.
"I have asked the working group to report back on these matters to elected representatives as soon as possible," Goff concluded.
On Tuesday, The AM Show captured footage of the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship blocking a Fullers ferry as it berthed at Princes Wharf.
Auckland Transport (AT) spokesperson Mark Hannan confirmed that Fullers cancelled the 6:45am Auckland to Devonport service, the 7am Devonport to Auckland service and the 7:30am Waiheke to Auckland service due to "cruise ship traffic".
"The Harbourmaster prohibits cruise ships entering the port between 7:30am and 9am and 4:30pm and 6pm (Monday to Friday) due to the amount of traffic on the harbour at that time," he told Newshub.
AT issued a Twitter statement saying the final responsibility for safety lies with the ferry skipper, who may decide to delay a ferry service if there is a cruise ship in the vicinity. Their main advice to commuters was, "allow extra time".
"What is it with AT prioritising cruise ship passengers over the [average] Auckland ratepayer... added 40 mins travel time to every person who needs to drive into town with the shambles downtown, and now they're killing ferry users," one man tweeted.
"Hundreds of commuters told to naff off by a cruise ship in Auckland Harbour again. Long queues at Matiatia," another woman wrote, alongside a screenshot of the Waiheke to Auckland 7:30am ferry service cancellation.
In a statement to Newshub, a Fullers spokesperson said: "As the quantity and frequency of cruise ships visiting Auckland continues to grow, so will congestion on the Hauraki Gulf water space that we all share and rely on to operate our service.
"Fullers360 have experienced significant disruptions to some of our sailings due to logistics around cruise ships when they dock and depart from the ferry basin.
"We have seen cruise ships berthing at times outside of their schedule, which is hard to plan for. In addition cruise ship movements approved to come into the harbour during commuter times will also have a significant impact. As a result, we have had to alter our service at the moment."