COOCHIEMUDLO Island residents have a new barge operator in time for Melbourne Cup functions today.
Redland City Council has issued Amity Trader owner and operator Steve Wallace three-year access and landing permits for Victoria Point and Coochiemudlo Island.
The permits were issued on Friday, the day island residents were told they would be without a car barge at the weekend and possibly on cup day.
The permits came into effect yesterday and Mr Wallace said the service would stick to the same timetable set by Megamia Barges, owned and operated by Donna Davis.
Mr Wallace said he would lease a two-car barge, The Silver Princess, for weekend runs and was in the process of buying a six-car barge from Western Australia for the week-day runs.
Megamia Barges director Ms Davis had employed Mr Wallace and his Amity Trader on the Coochie run while her two vessels were out of the water meeting Maritime Safety Queensland regulations.
The two barges, the seven-car Megamia and the 14-car barge Sirenia, were taken out of the water in September after failing a range of safety and seaworthy conditions and Maritime Safety Queensland inspections.
Queensland Water Police also charged one of the barge drivers with unlicensed driving earlier this year.
Ms Davis said she hoped Sirenia would be back in the water and plying the route today after a marine survey scheduled for yesterday morning.
She said surveyor Toby Blundell failed to carry out a planned inspection on Sirenia at Horizon Shores at the weekend.
Ms Davis said she was “outraged and upset” the council issued landing and access permits to Mr Wallace, after she spent $30,000 for landing access permits for a year.
She said she had not been notified of the move, which she believed would destroy her business.
“I’ve spent a great deal of money, upwards of $20,000, ensuring Sirenia complies with stringent maritime safety rules,” Ms Davis said.
“And now I’ve had the carpet pulled from under my feet while we were trying to sort things out,” she said.
Ms Davis apologised to island residents and said she had tried to get a replacement vessel at the weekend.
She said she expected Sirenia to pass inspection and services to resume a normal timetable by Friday at the latest.
Mr Wallace said customers wanting to book the Amity Trader barge to get to today’s Melbourne Cup functions needed to make bookings for his service on 0487 227 437 and had to pay cash on board.
Today and tomorrow, Amity Trader will adhere to the regular barge service timetable, with the first barge leaving Coochie at 6.20am and the first leaving Victoria Point at 6.40am.
Services will break for the usual lunch-time period on these two days after the last barge leaves Coochie at 12.20pm.
Services will resume at 2.20pm from Victoria Point on both days and finish with the usual 5.20pm run from Coochie.
Ms Davis said if Sirenia passed Monday’s inspection, it would be used to take fuel to St Helena Island this morning, ahead of Melbourne Cup parties.
Customers wanting to make bookings on the barge should ring Megamia Barges on 3820 6557.