Max Allen snr with wife Carmel and son Max Allen Jnr.
Max Allen snr with wife Carmel and son Max Allen Jnr.

Ferry business forced to moor all boats, put off 10 staff

COMING off the back of one of their "top seasons", Max Allen snr never imagined he would have all seven of his boats all tied up with no forecast of when they could hit the water again.

Freedom Fast Cats was forced to shut all operations of ferry transfers and cruises on March 24, following government advice with the coronavirus pandemic.

It was a hard pill to swallow to stop all bookings when they were at the peak of their season.

"We had a tremendous last year and right up until end of February," Max snr said.

"No-one would have expected this."

Typically they would be using two boats constantly a day at the moment, with the addition of a third regularly.

With Easter this weekend and school holidays, they had a lot of bookings which have now had to be refunded.

After that, there is also the southern tourists and nomads who come up with their caravans.

The weather has also been perfect with predictions of five knots on the water - which normally brings a lot of locals out.

The overseas market would be the worst affected as Max snr predicts they won't see international tourists for 12 months.

This comes after the business spent a lot of money on overseas advertising for the Southern Great Barrier Reef, all of which is now down the drain.

"It's a terrible loss for this area, it's really hit the whole of the tourism industry," he said.

They have also been forced to put off 10 casual and permanent staff who were in the crew team and office.

Five staff were retained with minimal hours to do maintenance and will now receive the Jobseeker payment, along with Max snr and his wife Carmel and their son. Max jnr.

The staff are doing some work with general maintenance on the boats and terminal but it's tricky because they can't be spending money when they have none coming in.

"The bank account goes down really rapidly," Max snr said.

It also costs money for the boats to be sitting there tied up.

They have four catamaran big ferries, two glass bottom boats and one water taxi - all out of action.

"It costs a fortune to keep them all floating and going," he said.

"You can't just tie a boat up and walk away."

Freedom Fast Cats are operating one boat a week over to Great Keppel Island each Friday to take medicines and mail over there, and for people who live on the island who may need to go appointments.

Max snr said it has been quiet over on the island.

He encourages everyone to follow the governments advice and stay home.

"If everyone does the right thing we might be able to get going by July," he said.

"If everyone stays at home, the quicker everyone can get back to it.

"It's very difficult for everyone but you can't do much about it.

"You just plug along."

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