All steamed up, but who will take the wheel of the Cumberoona?

THE Cumberoona paddlesteamer could be doomed after a lukewarm response to a nationwide search for a qualified operator.

Albury Council has confirmed “multiple” submissions were received from a well-publicised expressions of interest process launched in early February.

But The Border Mail has been told only two bids were forthcoming, with the Friends of the Cumberoona confirming last night it was one of the interested parties.

The Cumberoona was dry docked in 2006 due to low water levels and, recently, repair works costing $300,000.

A suitable operator was hoped to be found by next month after other Murray River ports including Echuca and Mildura had been specifically targeted in the search.

But the Cumberoona’s future has never looked more uncertain.

Its fate could have an impact on the progress of a proposed riverside precinct near the Albury Swim Centre that would including mooring facilities for the paddlesteamer.

Funding of $1 million is allocated in the four-year plan for the riverside precinct, but it is also contingent on private sector investment.

Director for community and recreation James Jenkins confirmed discussions were under way with interest parties and they were still being assessed.

“Further discussions with the interested parties will take place over coming weeks with a view to a report being presented to council in April or May,” Mr Jenkins said.

The preferred operator was to be offered an initial three-year lease followed by a two-year option.

Once appointed the operator would have had to conduct final maintenance and also update the boat’s operational manual to obtain a maritime certificate of survey.

Final approval would be required to enable the boat to operate commercially after an eight-year absence.

Recent works included hull replacement works and minor repair jobs such as repairing timber floorboards and stars and plugging leaks and holes.

A successful operator must have the ability to maintain the boat and have experience in the tourism industry.

The Cumberoona has never run at a profit since the council bought the Bicentennial project paddlesteamer nearly 20 years ago from the community-based Upper Murray Steamship Company for $280,000.

The smallest operating loss was about $60,000.

Friends of the Cumberoona spokesman Jeff Sawyer said he expected to have follow-up discussions with the council shortly.

“I can’t elaborate on our submission until we go through the process,” he said.

“But we are doing this for the community.”

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