By Khiara Elliott
The Federation Wharf-based riverboat businesses have seemingly been forced out of their offices to make room for more hospitality venues.
City River Cruises, Melbourne River Cruises and Williamstown, Bay and River Cruises are currently located in the vaults along Federation Wharf between hospitality venues Riverland Bar and Pilgrim.
Melbourne Passenger Boating Association (MPBA) President Jeff Gordon told CBD News that riverboat operators were denied the opportunity to tender for their vaults.
Mr Gordon questioned the legitimacy of the process. He said management told operators it had previously sent them a document regarding the tender process, but the operators never received it.
“It looks like they are going to take the whole thing over and bring in another hospitality venue here. That decision has been made by the Federation Square committee.”
The owner of Williamstown, Bay and River Cruises, Mark Davy, said Federation Square would normally send a renewal proposal towards the end of the leasing period.
However, he said, this time the only correspondence received was a letter telling them to vacate by the end of March.
He said that, while it would be good to have a ticket booth nearby, the business needed shore-side facilities to be able to operate.
“We haven’t found anything else and we don’t know what we are going to do,” he said.
Fed Square’s general manager of commercial and public engagement, Caroline Pitcher, told CBD News: “Fed Square has managed this tenant with the appropriate process and within its obligations.”
According to Mr Gordon, management has offered Riverboat operators sites along Princes Bridge for their ticket booths.
“I think pressure was put on the State Government which put pressure on Federation Square to say ‘Yes, okay you can have your ticket booths up there but we don’t want you down here because we get more money out of the restaurants’,” he said.
Mr Gordon is upset by the way operators who are, for the most part, family businesses, are being “pushed out” of Federation Wharf.
“At the moment, we’re feeling like there’s no support from the City of Melbourne or from Parks Victoria,” he said.
“I think the people of Melbourne, particularly the people in charge of Melbourne need to make a decision on whether they want a viable boating industry or whether they don’t.”