Fullers boss Mike Horne has hit back at criticism over cancelled ferry services, saying the company will not compromise on the health and safety of passengers and staff.

After being blasted for a week of ferry delays and three cancelled Auckland sailings blamed on cruise ships berthing, Horne is calling for a restriction to cruise ship movements in the Ferry Basin after 6am.

"It is fundamental for the safety of our customers and staff that we have a standard operating procedure that restricts ferry movements in and out of the basin while cruise ships are thrusting and while the water is still turbulent due to cruise ship berthing.

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"Ferry movements during this time can result in extreme and unpredictable movement of the vessel, which puts our customers and our staff at risk," Horne said.

He said cruise ships are getting bigger and, as a result, their thrusting power is increasing. The new breakwater constructed near Queens Wharf has materially changed tidal wave flow and there is 40m of construction activity along Queens Wharf that is reducing navigable water space.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called Ports of Auckland, Transport, Waiheke Community Board members and Fullers - who operate the ferries - into a meeting last Wednesday to ask why cancellations and delays were happening.

The harbourmaster will now convene a group of critical parties to work through a number of options, Goff said.

Goff told Radio New Zealand he found it frustrating that Fullers was stating the cancellations were caused by cruise liner berthings and that it wasn't safe to come in, but the harbourmaster had said there weren't grounds for cancellations.

Horne said the limited water space means that without restricting cruise ships into the harbour no later than 6am, disruption will continue for the early morning ferry passengers.

The cruise ship arrival times published by Ports of Auckland refer to the mooring time of the vessel at the pilot buoy off Rangitoto, not to the times that they are moving and berthing in the ferry basin. It is the movement in the basin that is unpredictable and disruptive to ferry sailings, he said.

He said Fullers has made a number of efforts to signal these issues over the past 18 months, in attempt to collaborate and find a solution.


Fullers has commissioned Sydney-based Thompson-Clark Shipping to do an independent review of the operating environment and to assess Fullers' decision not to operate while cruise ships are thrusting.

A Fullers master, who the Herald has agreed not to name, said crews were just trying to keep people safe.

"As masters, we will not risk those for which we are responsible for. This is also one of Fullers' core values," he said.

"We spend all day analysing and assessing risk, and the potential to have a serious incident in this situation is a real one."

Auckland Transport has said the cruise ships were not to blame for the disruption last Tuesday.

It said the harbour master found the ships' impact on other vessels was negligible.

The Queen Elizabeth berthed in Auckland this morning, as seen from the deck of Fullers' close-brushing ferry from Hobsonville Point. Photo / Chris Keall
The Queen Elizabeth berthed in Auckland this morning, as seen from the deck of Fullers' close-brushing ferry from Hobsonville Point. Photo / Chris Keall

However, the Fullers master released a video showing the Seaborne Encore, a luxury cruise ship, arriving at Auckland Harbour this week.

With only gentle wind in the area, the pilot releases the tugs early and uses the ship's own propulsion thrusts, creating a wash that wouldn't be safe for a ferry to manoeuvre through, he said.

"Anyone that drives a boat through Westhaven, which is a large part of Auckland, knows that if you go through anybody's wash, let alone a 10,000-horsepower cruise ship, that there's going to be problems."