A PROPOSAL to replace the Manly ferries with cataramans would cut passenger capacity from 1000 to 400 per trip, the Maritime Union says.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance last week told the Sydney Morning Herald that the Freshwater-class ferries were costly to maintain and “their time has come”.

“[The Freshwater-class is] at the end of its life after 40 years and we are running a modern-class ferry fleet,” Mr Constance told the SMH.

“My preference is to maintain and try and keep at least one of the vessels on the harbour going … but, that said, we’re yet to make that final determination.”

The union argues the cats have a lower passenger capacity due to swell limits while crossing the Heads.

MUA Sydney Branch assistant secretary Paul Garrett said scrapping the ferries was the wrong move.

“The doubled-ended Manly ferries are an internationally recognised Australian institution,” Mr Garrett said.

Watch the Manly Ferry overcome big swells outside Sydney Heads. Credit: YouTube

“Taking the Manly ferries out of service would be like pulling the Staten Island ferries out of New York, the Star ferries out of Hong Kong, or the cable cars out of San Francisco.”

Mr Garrett said the decision by NSW transport minister Andrew Constance was not supported by the local community.

“Particularly in school holidays and the warmer months, the replacement of Freshwater ferries that can carry 1,100 passengers with catamarans that only hold 400 will see a dramatic drop in tourist numbers,” he said.

“That situation will be made worse when big swells roll in through the heads, with the new Emerald-class vessels unable to operate to the five-metre swell limit that the current Freshwater-class does.”

Mr Garrett said maritime workers knew there was life left in the ferries. “This announcement is simply the wrong decision for Manly, the Northern Beaches and Sydney, but it’s not too late for what could be a costly mistake to be overturned,” he said.