BY JUDITH KERR
06 Oct, 2011 12:00 AM
BAY island commuters were stranded yesterday after a water bus from the Southern Moreton bay Islands ran aground and two Coochiemudlo Island barges were taken out of service during the week.
The Bay Island Transit System (BITS) ferry, with 98 passengers on board, ran aground after leaving Karragarra Island heading to Weinam Creek yesterday at about 7.30am.
Passengers reported the driver hit a sandbank after manoeuvring out of the channel just before the Ws.
BITS area manager Debbie Wilson contacted the Water Police, who were at the scene within eight minutes.
It took about two hours to get the passengers back to Weinam Creek after being ferried in rubber duckies from the grounded boat to two other BITS ferries.
Ms Wilson said BITS had another ferry to replace the grounded vessel and services would not be disrupted.
The grounded vessel remained on the sandbank until the high tide at 3pm yesterday.
It is still unknown when the Coochie barge service will resume its 12-trip-a-day schedule after the gearbox blew up on the Megamia on Tuesday.
The ageing barge, which can carry up to seven vehicles at a time, is tied up at the Victoria Point jetty awaiting repair works and safety clearance from Maritime Safety Queensland.
Barge owner and operator Donna Davis said a Maritime Safety inspection was carried out on Megamia on Wednesday.
Ms Davis said she also expected a surveyor’s inspection to be carried out on her company’s other barge, Sirenia, on Monday.
That barge is moored at Lamb Island awaiting clearance from Maritime Safety Queensland after it was taken out of the water a week ago when it failed safety checks.
The Kooringal Trader barge, which usually plies the route from North Stradbroke Island to Moreton Island, took vehicles and passengers to and from Coochie for four hours yesterday.
At the time of going to press, however, it was still unknown what services would operate over the weekend.
“I’m still not sure what we will do until Sirenia is back in action, which is expected to be on Monday after a surveyor inspects the boat,” Ms Davis said.
“We’ve made all the changes suggested by Maritime Safety including replacing a fire extinguisher and checking the alarm system.
“The marine safety rules have changed in the two years we have owned the vessel and these were minor adjustments to comply with the new rules.
“This has been an awful time for this company and we sympathise with the barge users.”
Surveyor Russ Behan inspected the Sirenia last week and gave Ms Davis a list of work to be completed before the vessel will be given approval to go back in to service.
“They need to show they have done the work that was stipulated and give me the completed list before any approval,” Mr Behan said.
Ms Davis said the beaching of Megamia at Coochiemudlo Island last Friday was due to wind, tide and the inexperience of the driver, who was skippering the vessel for the first time.
Coochiemudlo Island Progress Association’s Russell Jackson said residents were at breaking point over the unreliable service and the poor quality of the barge.
“This is killing business on the island, especially builders who are waiting to get materials over there.
“It’s a farce just days after the barge was put back into the water, it is now tied up on the jetty at Victoria Point. We believe it is not a safe vessel and some sort of action must be taken to rectify the situation before businesses go broke,” Mr Jackson said.