The Comerong Island Ferry could be closed for up to three months in early 2021 for major maintenance work.
Earlier this year Shoalhaven City Council conducted an assessment of the ferry, the "Cormorant" which links and provides access, between Lower Numbaa and Comerong Island, across the man-made Berry's Canal.
Vessel integrity inspections earlier this year found refurbishment was much better value than the construction of a new ferry or purchase of a replacement ferry.
"A routine inspection of the approach ramps identified the need for major works to be undertaken," a council spokesperson said.
"The approach ramps form part of the road and enable vehicles to approach the ferry.
"The design for these works has been completed with the construction method and timeframes now being explored."
But it is understood the ferry could be out of action for up to three months.
In accordance with statutory provisions, the "Cormorant" is required to be dry docked every five years for a survey to ensure the vessel's integrity.
While out of service, council will provide a "pedestrian" ferry service for residents only and will also take the opportunity to undertake necessary works including this time a substantial top deck refurbishment.
In keeping with previous vehicle ferry closures periods, no visitors or day trippers will be allowed during the "pedestrian" ferry service period.
"The design of these refurbishment works has begun and scheduled to be tendered later this year," the spokesperson said.
"Council has undertaken a ferry hull integrity assessment which underpinned its successful application for a 90-day extension to avoid service interruption during the Christmas and the January school holidays.
"Once the design and specifications for both the approach ramps and refurbishment are completed sufficiently to determine timeframes, council will fully engage the Comerong Island community."
It is proposed the approach ramps work and ferry refurbishment will be undertaken concurrently to minimise the impact on the service users.
The spokesperson said council had met with island property owners, including farmers.
"It is hoped the closure next year will be approximately the same as five years ago but this will be known when the tenders are considered and contractors appointed for both the approach ramps and the ferry refurbishment works," the spokesperson said.
"In keeping with previous vehicle ferry closures periods, no visitors or day trippers are allowed during the "pedestrian" ferry service period.
TONO Ferry Services Pty Ltd operates the ferry service between 6am and 10pm every day, with after hours call out service available to residents on the island.
Residents, their visitors and contractors travel at no cost, while other visitors to the island, the cost of a return ticket is $10, payable by EFTPOS only.
The western side of Comerong island has numerous private property ownerships, while the eastern side is the Comerong Island Nature Reserve which was created in August 1986, covering an area of 660 hectares, managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
On average 14,500 vehicles use the service annually.
The "Cormorant" was commissioned sometime around 1945 and is approximately 75 years of age and has been in service with Shoalhaven City Council since June 1, 1993.
It was formerly a spare ferry of the South Australian Roads Board, working on the Murray River, and operates by pulling itself along a submerged cable that is anchored at each end.
According to the 2016 Census, the island has 12 fulltime residents and 15 private dwellings. A council report states there are 27 private properties on the island with a total value of approximately $31 million.
At least half a dozen local farmers either own or lease part of the island for agricultural purposes.
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