by Jeni Bone
Gold Coast commuters now have a proposed date for the start of the long-awaited ferry service from hybrid-power specialist, SolarSailor and local business Solar Coast Cats.
The Solar Sailor vessel in Sydney Harbour.
According to CEO of SolarSailor, Dr Robert Dane, on the Gold Coast for an Innovation Forum this week, the ferry may be up and running around the canals of the Gold Coast by Spring 2009, depending on Council approval.
'We are now in the process of talking with the Mayor and Council on the Gold Coast, but the Mayor is committed. By spring next year we will have vessels in the water to start the majority of the service to prove our business plan.'
Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke and Solar Coast Cats directors, Ken Fitzpatrick and Laurence Baum, signed a contract in December 2006 allowing the company to operate a passenger ferry service on the Gold Coast, with the intention of beginning services at the end of 2007.
The original plan involved the hybrid ferry to accommodate 100 passengers, but speed regulations would have blown out the round-trip journey from 85 minutes to two hours.
Next year, a 50 passenger vessel will start a route between Jupiters Casino and Sea World, then every couple of hours to Paradise Point.
'There won’t be a bar or bathrooms, so it’s more like a bigger water taxi, but we have to start somewhere,' said Dane.
One of the barriers to the project is the 6 knot speed limit, which prevents the large vessels from operating. The speed limit is associated with safety, rather than noise or wash.
'We will start with craft under 8m, around 7.9m, to make sure we don’t fall into the category of speed limits, but it would be great if we could get an exemption from the state government.'
More at www.solarsailor.com