The Hong Kong ferry that came to Australia

This is the story of a Hong Kong vehicular ferry called 民安(Man On)that once carried cars across Victoria Harbour, but ended up reconnecting the Australia city of Hobart.

Photo by John Craike; via the Maritime Museum of Tasmania collection

Double decked ferry 民安(Man On)entered service with the Hongkong and Yaumati Ferry Company in 1951 carrying passengers across Victoria Harbour, before being converted into a car ferry in 1966. With the opening of the Cross Harbour Tunnel in the 1970s this traffic collapsed, leaving the fleet of car ferries underused.

Meanwhile thousands of kilometres away in the Australia city of Hobart, Tasmania something dramatic happened – bulk carrier SS Lake Illawarra was headed up the Derwent River, when it veered off course and rammed into the Tasman Bridge, causing it to collapse, and cutting the city in half.

As a result a fleet of ferries was quickly assembled to fill the transportation gap, including the Man On.

Private enterprise got on with shifting people while the State Government got on with buck passing, indecision and then making some quite weird decisions.

One such was to buy from Hong Kong a two-decked 30 year old car ferry and have it towed to Hobart. When Man On arrived it was quickly found out that her design as a car ferry made her use as a passenger ferry very dubious. Much extra money was expended before she was any use.

Following the opening of the reconstructed Tasman Bridge in 1977 the Man On was now redundant, but a third life was calling – carrying vehicles and passengers between Bruny Island and the Tasmanian mainland.

Renamed the Harry O’May and with the lower deck converted back to carry vehicles, the ferry started on this route in 1978, and continued in this role until replaced by newer ferry Mirambeena in 1991.

The next turn of duty for the ferry was a trans-Tamar service between Beauty Point and George Town.

Harry O’May was sold by the state to Les Dick in 1995 for AUD 235,000.

He installed a vehicle ramp on it and then tried to start a trans-Tamar service between Beauty Point and George Town.

But after a series of teething problems the service failed and ceased in 1997.

Today the ferry is derelict, tied up to a wharf in Launceston.


The original Man On is not to be confused with the Hong Kong vehicular ferry built in 1981 and also called Man On – it is still in service today with Bauhinia Harbour Cruise.

Man On on a harbour cruise, originally built as a double deck car ferry


More photos

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One Response to The Hong Kong ferry that came to Australia

  1. Pingback: A nostalgic return for Hong Kong's cross harbour car ferries - Checkerboard Hill

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