Labor transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen said it was the worst possible time for the government to mothball the Queenscliff as summer was just around the corner and restrictions were about to ease.

“The government’s decision to take the Queenscliff off the water and replace it with smaller calm water ferries means that passengers will have to wait longer for services which could be cancelled because these calm water vessels can’t handle the conditions,” she said.

Two of the four Freshwater class ferries in the government-owned fleet are being retired from service.

Two of the four Freshwater class ferries in the government-owned fleet are being retired from service.Credit:Jessica Hromas

Late last year the government said it would keep only one Freshwater in service, before later bowing to pressure and deciding to retain two of the four.

Those to be retained – the Collaroy and the Freshwater – will operate only on weekends and public holidays once the three new Emerald-class ferries enter regular service.

Maritime Union of Australia assistant secretary Paul Garrett said the Queenscliff was an iconic ferry that had stood the test of time and still had decades of service left.

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“This is an opportunity for the new Transport Minister [Rob Stokes] to come out today and reverse the flawed decision to scrap the Queenscliff,” he said.

“With Sydney opening up on Monday, it’s clear that people want to get out and about.”

Named after beaches in Sydney’s north, the first of the double-ended ferries, the Freshwater, was launched in 1982, followed by the Queenscliff less than a year later, the Narrabeen in 1984 and the Collaroy in 1988. They can each carry about 1000 passengers, compared with about 400 on the new Emerald-class ferries.

After it is removed from service, the Queenscliff will be transferred to the Balmain Shipyard, and later moved to Cockatoo Island while the government considers the vessel’s fate.

The retirement of the Queenscliff comes four years after Sydney’s last two Lady-class ferries made their last regular sailings after four decades of carrying passengers.

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