The KI Connect ferry began running in June, ending SeaLink’s virtual monopoly. (South Australian Country Hour: Marty McCarthy)
After only four months of operation the Kangaroo Island Connect ferry service has again run into problems, with the owner saying he has been told to pay for his own dredging despite the SA Government funding similar operations elsewhere.
- A sandbar is interrupting the new Kangaroo Island Connect ferry service
- It began running in June this year, ending SeaLink’s virtual monopoly
- The owner says he will have to fork out for the cost of dredging
A sandbar at Cape Jervis has affected the catamaran ferry over the past few months, forcing it to either moor at the local jetty or stop operating at low tide.
Managing director David Harris said carrying out the dredging needed to get the vessel to its licensed berth would be extremely difficult and expensive.
“It will probably cost about $60,000 or so. The biggest thing is to get the dredge down there,” Mr Harris said.
“We are the only ferry operator in SA that has to do their own dredging. SeaLink in the same basin has had the area dredged three times since we been in there and that’s been paid by DPTI [Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure].
“If you look around the state I think Beachport, Cape Jaffa, Cape Jarvis, O’Sullivan Beach, Glenelg, North Haven, Port Vincent — virtually all of the small little ports require dredging.
“That’s normally done by the state and the councils, but there’s an exception being made for us.”
After months of the delay, the KI Connect ferry began running in June this year, ending SeaLink’s longstanding virtual monopoly on passenger services to and from the mainland.
Mr Harris said operations have been extremely difficult for his business, raising concerns over the maintenance of the Kangaroo Island port.
“In the year that we have been sort of mucking around down there SeaLink have had their berth dredged three times and the fella who does it has told me that he sends their bill to the Government and without that they wouldn’t be able to operate either,” he said.
“We’re in the start-up phase and we’ve had quite good support from some of the tourism operators.
“One of the local fisherman has offered, if we tie up to the jetty, [to] bring people across but there has been no support whatsoever from DPTI for the service.
“If you look at the condition of the SeaLink wharf it really is a disgrace … SeaLink’s berths are falling over, the boat ramps collapsed and now being condemned, no-one does any scheduled maintenance to anything down there.
“The port infrastructure earns $1.3 million a year in wharfage from us and SeaLink … but nothing is being done.”
The ABC has contacted SeaLink for comment.
‘I don’t know’: Government unsure what it’s paying for
Transport Minister Stephan Knoll told ABC Radio Adelaide that he could not confirm whether the Government was paying for SeaLink’s dredging at Cape Jervis.
“The answer is I don’t know. That’s not information that my guys have given to me in relation to the issues we are having with KI Connect,” he said.
“The major issue we are having with them at the moment is that they want access to a bit of infrastructure down on the KI end at Penneshaw that is currently used by cruise ships.
“My department and my office has been working with David for quite some time to find a solution.”
The island’s tourism industry is worth about $54 million a year and employs 560 people.
Artist’s impression of a proposed bridge connecting KI to the mainland. (Facebook: Universal Bridging Consortium)
The State Government has committed $18 million to upgrade the local airport and has proposed a $30 million timber wharf at Smith Bay.
Mr Knoll said the Government was in favour of introducing greater competition within the island’s tourism market, and said the current wharf set-up only allows “for one major operator to be able to put their boat up the back”.
“It’s really hard to compare apples with apples here because you’ve got … a massive boat that needs different types of infrastructure to be able to operate at both ends, whereas a passenger-only service needs a far lower level of infrastructure,” he said.
“There are some wharfage fees that are paid by operators and there is a level of maintenance that the department undertakes around that, but there are some broader infrastructure issues that exist, they’re not that simple to fix.”