Man charged over ferry bomb threat


A DISGRUNTLED French Islander who allegedly threatened to “blow up” the Stony Point to Tankerton ferry, Thursday 3 September, has been arrested and charged with making threats to kill.

Police have also raided the man’s home and seized several firearms.

Two uniformed police travelled on the ferry that afternoon to protect passengers from any possible threat.

The man, 60, who is alleged to have made the threats, has been bailed to appear at Frankston Magistrates’ Court in January and banned from using the ferry.

It is understood the man is a pensioner and has written to Hastings MP Neale Burgess explaining his actions and expressing concern about his welfare and health if unable to leave the island to seek medical treatment.

Detective Leading Senior Constable Darren Sherren, of Hastings CIU, said the man made the threats by phone to the Public Transport Victoria complaints line.

“He was not happy with the service and certain things were said, including threatening to blow up the ferry with explosives as the result of a long, ongoing feud,” Detective Sherren said.

“The PTV then relayed the nature of the call through to us and we raided a French Island property and seized firearms.”

Detective Sherren said the man’s firearm’s licence would be reviewed.

The ferry runs between Stony Point, and Tankerton on French Island, and Cowes, Phillip Island.

Although having a daily, year-round schedule varying weather conditions make departures problematic. This has led to frequent complaints from passengers, claiming the service is poorly run and the operator unresponsive.

Several public meetings and ongoing complaints to the state government (Liberal and Labor) have failed to resolve differences between some islanders and the ferry operator, Frank Denvir.

Mr Denvir, when contacted by email by The News, declined to comment.

The service has been operating in Western Port since 1994 and has grown from 25-passenger vessels operating to French Island only, to two high speed passenger catamarans running to Phillip Island and out to Seal Rocks.

PTV says the large tidal variation in Western Port and volatile air and sea conditions make operations difficult. It does not guarantee operation of the ferry “in the interest of ensuring passenger safety”.

The French Island Community Association has issued a plea for islanders to “please be patient” while it tries to sort out the confusion over where the ferry is allowed to berth at Stony Point.

Accounts differ as to why the ferry cannot safely berth at the Stony Point jetty. One account states that new infrastructure is needed on the seaward side of the jetty, while high tides make berthing hazardous on the inside, where there is a landing.

“Please be patient as it is difficult to try and get hold of the relevant people and sort through the information, and we are only a few days in,” FICA secretary Nicky Pitkanen stated in an email on Wednesday 9 September.

By Stephen Taylor with Keith Platt

First published in the Western Port News – 15 September 2015


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