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Vale Lady Chelmsford

28 Jun 2011

Vale Lady Chelmsford Image

What was once an elegant Sydney Harbour ferry has been smashed to pieces and disposed of via several large industrial bins.

The historic Lady Chelmsford has been demolished with her remains brought up from the waters of Victoria Harbour mostly via huge mechanical jaws.

Despite having a couple of years to prepare and being “mostly over it”, former owner Keith Rankin said it was “gut wrenching” to see the boat being broken up.

He said the insurer should have raised the vessel intact within a fortnight of her sinking in February 2008 and argued about the legalities later.  

As previously reported in the Docklands News, Nautilus Marine had denied liability. However the Financial Ombudsman ruled in favour of Mr Rankin and Nautilus has been responsible for raising the vessel and the associated costs.

Mr Rankin said it pained him to see the Alma Doepel and steam tug Wattle being restored locally when Lady Chelmsford had equally historic maritime value.

And, as it turned out, the structural integrity of the craft was remarkable even after so long beneath the surface.

“It’s just such a terrible waste,” Mr Rankin said.

Constructed in 1910 by Rock Davis in New South Wales, the Lady Chelmsford operated in Sydney until 1971 when it was deemed to no longer be economically viable and was sold to interests in South Australia.

Her stint in Port Adelaide as a showboat lasted until 1985 when she was sold again and moved to Melbourne. She was one of only two existing “Lady” class ferries still afloat and was in her final stages of restoration.

Last month Nautilus Marine, under supervision from the Department of Transport, began recovering the Lady Chelmsford from the bottom of Victoria Harbour.

The boat was demolished, rather than raised, mainly due to concerns over its structural integrity and because it was the cheaper option.

Mr Rankin said this made commercial sense at it would have cost more than $1 million to restore the Lady Chelmsford to survey.

It was hard to miss the large crane barge at bringing up pieces of the old ferry, sparking interest from passers by and locals.

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