Fullers360 boss Mike Horne has vowed to "do better" and improve communication, transparency and customer experience after a run of cancelled services, breakdowns and stranded commuters.

The chief executive said yesterday he had reviewed operations at the ferry company, looking at staffing levels and scheduling, and had spoken to crews about better customer communication on the wharves.

"We do work within a natural environment, so there are some things beyond our control, like fog, but we do our very best to adapt when these arise," Horne said.

Multiple Waiheke sailings were cancelled from 6am to 8am on Thursday, leaving about 400 commuters queuing.


The ferry company said the cancellation was because of defective fire equipment, which was a health and safety risk and did not comply with sailing regulations.

It comes amid growing frustrations for Waiheke passengers after Fullers switched from half-hourly sailings in summer to its winter schedule of hourly sailings at off-peak times. Staff spoke of abuse from customers and said they were often too scared to tell people a ferry had been cancelled because of the reaction.

Waiheke resident Craig Hilton was one of the commuters affected by this week's disruptions. When two consecutive morning crossings were cancelled, he left the Waiheke terminal and went home, subsequently missing several meetings at his workplace in the city.

"After a ferry is cancelled the next ones tend to be full, and then you're not sure if you're going to get on the next one, so you have to stand on the wharf," Hilton told the Weekend Herald.

Hilton suffers from arthritis - one of the reasons he wasn't willing to stand around queuing.

"There was a guy who missed that boat who was a dialysis patient, who was off to the hospital that day.

"He didn't get on either."

Hilton said there had been issues with delays and disruptions "for years" but thought they were becoming worse.


He hoped to attend a public meeting with Fullers on the island next Sunday.

Ferry customers feel left in the dark: that will change says CEO Mike Horne who has promised better communication. Photo / Leon Menzies
Ferry customers feel left in the dark: that will change says CEO Mike Horne who has promised better communication. Photo / Leon Menzies

Horne said the public forum was the perfect opportunity for people to voice their concerns.

"We want to hear from the people about what improvements are important for them.

"With all of the stuff going on we want to understand all of the viewpoints and an open forum is the best way to do that."

Horne insisted there had been no cuts to staffing numbers and said the company had spoken with its crew about prioritising "better customer communication" on the wharves.

Recent mechanical problems, fog and technical problems had led to a number of crossings being cancelled, he said.

Rules about the number of staff onboard and passenger capacity were issues the company planned on being more open and clear about, Horne said.

A former staff member spoken to by the Weekend Herald said there was fault on both sides with poor communication from Fullers but also commuters who didn't keep up to date with times.

"Staff do try and give as much notice as they can when a crossing is going to be cancelled but there are people who never check.

"There have been quite a few cancelled recently but it is usually not that bad."

The former staff member said crew morale was at an all-time low and staff were too scared to tell commuters a ferry was cancelled because they were abused.

"I have heard some pretty terrible things and it is completely unnecessary."

The company had decided to invest $13 million towards buying two vessels for its Waiheke Island and Devonport routes from August this year.

Next Sunday's 1.30pm meeting on Waiheke will be open to customers, community leaders and stakeholders, and it will be chaired by former Waitākere mayor Sir Bob Harvey. The location is yet to be confirmed.