Ballina's ageing ferry needs 'risk reduction' strategy
UPDATE, FRIDAY, 11.30AM: BALLINA Shire Council has decided to give the Burns Point Ferry an annual dry-dock check-up, rather than get the vessel out of the water every two years.
Councillors present at Thursday's voted unanimously for the annual maintenance program which followed a trial of the biennial check-up.
For regular users of the ferry linking South Ballina to Ballina across the Richmond River, from 2021 the annual maintenance program will have the ferry out of the water for two weeks, rather than three weeks for the biennial program.
The ferry is scheduled to be out of service from February 15 to March 6 this year.
ORIGINAL STORY: AS the Burn Point Ferry ages, Ballina Shire Council staff want to give the old girl a check-up every year rather than every two years.
The dry-dock maintenance scheduling for the vessel which links South Ballina to Ballina across the Richmond River will be decided at this Thursday's council meeting.
For regular ferry users, council staff report an annual maintenance program has the ferry out of the water for two weeks, rather than three weeks for the biennial program.
The ferry was built and operated in Queensland in the mid-1980s prior to being bought by Ballina council in 1990.
Council has been putting her in dry dock at Swan Hill every two yeas as a trial since 2016.
While out of the water, the ferry undergoes a mechanical overhaul, a maritime inspection and certification, sand blasting and painting and other repairs and inspections.
However, staff report that as the age of the ferry is now approaching 35 years and it is operating 365 days of the year, "a risk reduction strategy is recommended".
"An annual internal and external hull inspection will provide a more controlled approach to critical hull maintenance with structural repairs able to be scheduled within the following out-of-water maintenance cycle if needed ie: within the next 12 months," staff report.
"With a two-yearly maintenance cycle, it is taking longer to achieve the required maintenance tasks compared to the historic two-week timeline under the annual maintenance program."
While staff report a two-yearly maintenance program saves money, in 2016 and 2018 it cost $27,000 for things like tug hire and hire of the slipway.
But staff report "it has become clear since 2016 that there are a number of maintenance activities which do require attention on an annual basis," noting work on the access ramps, some of which requires removal of the ramps.
Also, an underside floor plate section needs to be cut out and removed when the ferry is next in dry dock.
The ferry's next out-of-water maintenance is scheduled to begin on February 15.