Bay Cats: Council Investigates Ocean Ferries as Alternative to Bruce

Published 21 July 2023

Bay Cat Ferry Stops.png

Commuters and tourists could take to the seas in a unique way to ease congestion on the Bruce Highway and also create a new tourist attraction in Moreton Bay.

Council today announced it will fund a demand study investigating the viability of a ferry service in Moreton Bay, dubbed ‘Bay Cats’, that could create an aquatic public transport network linking Bribie Island to Brisbane.

Mayor Peter Flannery said all options must be on the table and must be considered to help address the shortfall in major transport infrastructure in one of Australia’s fastest growing areas.

“Yes this is bold thinking, but we can’t keep doing things the same way and expect a different outcome,” Mayor Flannery said.

“Our population is growing, the Bruce is grinding to a halt, congestion consistently rates as one of the highest stress factors for locals in their lives - and yet we have this stunning expanse of sheltered waters just to the east of us that we’re not using to help people get around.

“So we’re daring to ask, why not investigate Bay Cats as an aquatic alternative?

“The study will look at the possible demand for this kind of ferry service for both commuters and visitors. This is a golden opportunity pre-Olympics to make Moreton Bay a ‘must visit’ destination.

“If the demand is there, we would then need to upgrade existing jetties and invest in new ones to ideally link Bongaree, Sandstone Point, Scarborough Harbour, Redcliffe, Woody Point, Shorncliffe, and the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal.

“In particular we know the infrastructure constraint that the Bribie Bridge creates for islanders as the only way on and off, so a ferry service could be a viable alternative to connect residents into heavy rail stations.

“Obviously if the investigation tells us the demand isn’t there it won’t be a goer, but our preliminary discussions with industry, the Moreton Maritime Alliance, and ferry services providers have all been incredibly positive so far.

“Believe it or not Brisbane’s City Cats have only been operating for 26 years, but fastforward to 2023 and they’re very much part of the capital’s identity.

“Just as Vancouver’s rainbow-coloured Aquabuses are now an icon, Amsterdam’s ferries are the free way to cross the river from Central Station and Copenhagen’s harbour buses are the most colourful way to get downtown.”

Moreton Maritime Alliance Director Brad Flynn said it was high time SEQ had a public transport icon that actually utilises the stunning sheltered waters of Moreton Bay.

“Not since the 60s and 70s has SEQ seen major investment in public boat harbours, when Scarborough Harbour, Cabbage Tree Creek Harbour and Manly Harbour were built. So all these decades later it’s time for us to get creative again,” he said.

“Despite this lack of investment, the ‘blue economy’ is actually growing faster than the Australian economy and has increased in value by 126% since 2001 with marine industries contributing approximately $74 billion to the Australian economy.

“There is an abundance of tourism, industry, research and education, and of course transport and marine infrastructure opportunities that we’re missing out on right now.

“Our current public transport system only accounts for roughly 2% of commutes from outside Moreton Bay into our region, which is a statistic so shockingly close to zero that it speaks for itself.

“Clearly we need other public transport options to get people coming into our region, and take them directly to the destinations they want to visit.

“We have an opportunity to create a service that leaves a lasting impression on the people who visit our city so they’ll go home and tell their friends and family what a great place Moreton Bay and South East Queensland was to see.”