Aucklanders fuming after string of ferry cancellations, Fullers admits its fleet needs upgrading

Aucklanders are getting irritated by frequent cancellations.
Aucklanders are getting irritated by frequent cancellations. Photo credit: File

Aucklanders are fuming as an ongoing string of ferry cancellations leaves commuters in limbo, with a spokesperson for the ferry company Fullers admitting its recent services have not been up to standard.

According to Auckland Transport's travel alerts, 20 services (some of which were operating on the same route) have been cancelled this week alone at the time of writing, with vessel breakdowns, mechanical issues, operational constraints and infrastructure problems to blame for the continued disruptions. Some services were replaced with buses and Ubers.

A spokesperson for the Auckland-based ferry company Fullers360 admitted to Newshub several of its long-service vessels are approaching the "end of their life cycle", with an "uncommon" number of mechanical issues plaguing its services. He said upgrading the fleet is a "priority" for Fullers. 

"The service over the past few days hasn't been to Fullers360's usual standards due to a few different factors. We've experienced an uncommon number of vessel issues, combined with disruptive weather affecting our ability to sail safely to some destinations," the spokesperson said.

"Some of the long-service vessels in the fleet are approaching their end of life cycle. As such, the introduction of new EV/hybrid ferries into our fleet is a priority for Fullers360."

The spokesperson said the company has been undertaking research and development into zero or low emissions ferries since 2018 and is working with a range of parties.

 "Fullers360 is in due diligence stages of introducing new EV/hybrid ferries into its fleet."

Operational constraints currently impacting ferry services include breakdowns, scheduled and unscheduled vessel maintenance, unexpected crew illness and unsafe weather conditions, the spokesperson added.

Issues with infrastructure, such as wharfs and piers, can also cause cancellations and delays, however Auckland Transport manages these problems.

Auckland Transport media relations manager Mark Hannan told Newshub it's aware Fullers360 is "currently experiencing mechanical issues with some of their ferries". 

"We are talking to them about this," Hannan said.

Most ferry services are contracted to Auckland Transport by Fullers360, he said, and Devonport and Waiheke services are operated commercially by the company and are not under contract to Auckland Transport.

"The current performance is not at the level we would expect. We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience."

The Fullers spokesperson said the company is working with Auckland Transport to ensure its sailings run to the scheduled timetables. 

"From time-to-time unexpected events such as unsafe weather conditions and vessel breakdowns can happen, which impact our ability to sail at the scheduled time," he said.

"We do our best to reduce the impact for our customers and appreciate their patience and apologise for the inconvenience."

The frequent cancellations have drawn ire from Aucklanders on social media, with one slamming Fullers and its "aging fleet" on Twitter.

"Wonder how many other ferries will be cancelled today [because] Fullers360 can't operate a business properly with their aging fleet," he tweeted.

On Tuesday, an Auckland Transport alert notified customers of two cancelled Devonport services - three minutes after the first was scheduled to depart.

"Nice work again. Letting your customers know about cancelled [ferries] three minutes after the ferry is supposed to have left! #youhadonejob #newferrysupplierplease," one person responded. 

Also on Tuesday, vessel breakdowns disrupted services from Auckland, Hobsonville and Beach Haven.

"Get some ferries that actually work," one user tweeted.

"Ferries have such huge potential to relieve pressure on our Auckland roads, yet their reliability appears dismal. We need this sorted out urgently," a woman posted on Tuesday.