BY ALEC SMART
Maritime workers are threatening to boycott working on a new ferry with the ‘ridiculous’ name of Ferry Mc Ferryface.
Maritime Union of Australia NSW assistant branch secretary Paul Garrett described the name decision as ‘insulting’, and insisted his workers would refuse to work on the ferry until a more sensible name was chosen.
“The Transport Minister is demonstrating here that he treats public transport as a joke,” Mr. Garrett said in an interview with 2GB Radio on Monday 13 November. “He’s taking the absolute mickey out of public transport in this state. Sydney Ferries have had an iconic history with Sydney Harbour and are named after iconic beaches and iconic Olympians. The workers are just frustrated with it.”
Transport Minister Andrew Constance yesterday berated the union workers, declaring, “The union are just a bunch of spoilsports for thousands of kids looking to hop on board.
“Sydney voted for this name, and we have listened,” he added.
Due to start service on 26 November, the new ferry is among a fleet of six new vessels commissioned by Transport for NSW to carry passengers across Sydney Harbour.
The other five vessels were named after prominent Australians: three medical doctors Victor Chan (heart surgeon), Catherine Hamlin (obstetrician) and Fred Hollows (ophthalmologist) and two Aboriginal leaders; explorer and entertainer Bungaree (incidentally, the first person to have been recorded as an ‘Australian’ when the country was still known as New South Wales) and resistance fighter Pemulwuy.
The name choice was the result of an online public poll, voted on by 15,000 respondents via Transport For NSW’s Name Your Ferry website poll. The final six were ultimately decided by a four-person panel, including: Australian National Maritime Museum director and chief executive Kevin Sumption, Australian Museum director and chief executive Kim McKay, NSW Young Australian of the Year Melissa Abu-Gazaleh, and former NSW Volunteer of the Year Patrick Dodd.
‘Ferry McFerryface’ in fact came fifth behind the more popular Boaty McBoatface, which took its cue from a similar competition in Britain in April 2016 to name a polar research vessel.
On that occasion former BBC radio presenter James Hand proposed the name as a joke. Even though he didn’t vote for it – preferring the more sober ‘Sir David Attenborough’, which polled fifth with 10,284 votes and was ultimately selected – his wacky proposal received 124,109 votes, four times more than second placed ‘Poppy-Mai’, named after a 16-month-old girl with incurable cancer.
The submarine aboard the controversially named polar research vessel ultimately inherited the Boaty McBoatface title, while the ship at the heart of the storm became the Sir David Attenborough.
The Boaty McBoatface joke spread worldwide, inspiring the naming of an Australian racehorse Horsey McHorseface at Warwick Farm last year and an express train in Sweden named Trainy McTrainface earlier this year.
“Members don’t want to crew the vessel,” Garret told Australian Associated Press on Tuesday. “It’s an insult to the integrity and heritage of Sydney Ferries, it undermines the professionalism and pride of the fleet.
“This is not a five-minute Internet sensation — this name has to be around for 20, 30, 40 years. This vessel will be left alongside the wharf until further notice.”
If the impasse is not resolved, the Maritime Union revealed that one ferry is always kept on standby in case another breaks down or is undergoing maintenance. It seems likely that the ferry doomed to remain on the reserve bench will be Ferry McFerryface.
Boaty McBoatface is not the first time a public naming poll has turned up unexpected results. Environmental activists Greenpeace launched a campaign to name a humpback whale in the South Pacific Ocean in a spirited attempt to personalise it and deter Japanese whalers from harpooning the cetacean.
Among the names proposed, Mr. Splashy Pants inspired a voting frenzy, and won with 78% of the ballot.
Similarly in 2012, soft drinks bottler Mountain Dew, owned by Pepsi, sought public help in naming a new apple-flavoured beverage. Despite previously successful public polls, which invited people to elect new names, flavours, colors and merchandising for Mountain Dew products, which they termed ‘dewmocracy’, this time the results were skewed.
Pepsi were forced to abandon attempts to elicit the public’s help in naming the new apple-flavoured drink after fascists, who ensured that ‘Hitler Did Nothing Wrong’ was the overall winner, hijacked the election.