State government investigates barge ramp sites at Russell Island

SERVICES SUSPENDED: A Stradbroke Ferries' barge was grounded at Russell Island's High Street ramp earlier this month, causing vehicle ferry services to be suspended there. Photo: Supplied
SERVICES SUSPENDED: A Stradbroke Ferries' barge was grounded at Russell Island's High Street ramp earlier this month, causing vehicle ferry services to be suspended there. Photo: Supplied

THE state government is investigating two sites at Russell Island for a second barge ramp, which locals have sought for years.

Residents are concerned vehicle access to and from the island stops when the High Street ramp becomes blocked, potentially stifling evacuations during natural disasters.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey confirmed his department would begin to investigate ramp suitability at the site and beachfront along The Boulevard, located on island’s south-east.

“I have requested officers from my department obtain more detailed hydrographic survey information at both sites to allow a feasibility investigation to proceed,” he said.

Mr Bailey’s response came after a petition calling for a ramp at Rocky Point was tabled in state Parliament late last year.

Six people were signatories despite a similar petition to council gaining more than 1000 supporters.

Division five councillor Mark Edwards, who had pushed for a ramp and evacuation area at Rocky Point, said he was encouraged by the minister’s response.

Mr Bailey said plans for a ramp might be included in future programs if Redland City Council helped fund the project.

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service would also chip in if the ramp was built for emergency service operations, he said.

SeaLink Travel Group chief executive Jeff Ellison, whose company operates Stradbroke Ferries, said the island’s lack of a second ramp suitable for barges meant access was hampered at times.

The point was highlighted this month when vehicle ferry services were suspended after a barge was grounded at the High Street ramp on Sunday, March 4 due to mechanical failure and a shallow tide.

Mr Ellison said the incident inconvenienced customers and caused financial losses for SeaLink.

“The vessel was repaired immediately but due to the falling tide we were stuck on the ramp,” he said.

While only one barge can access the island at a time, Mr Ellison said Stradbroke Ferries’ vessels could land on beaches in emergencies.

He said the island’s other two ramps were not suitable for berthing.

“One ramp is never ideal as no other vessel can access to load and unload,” he said.

“In an emergency there is another public boat ramp west of the existing ramp but it has no pile arrangement for safe berthing in certain tide states and prevailing conditions.

“There is also another public ramp on the eastern side of Russell Island but it has the same issue.”

AGEING FLEET 

Some residents have raised separate concerns about Stradbroke Ferries’ aging barge fleet, saying they were prone to breakdowns, exacerbating access issues.

Mr Ellison said SeaLink would consider replacing its vessels used for SMBI runs, which were aged up to 50 years, despite them remaining seaworthy.

Breakdowns on SMBI runs occurred less than once a month, with ongoing efforts to reduce this.