THE future of the Cumberoona paddlesteamer has never been more bleak after an Australia-wide search for a suitable operator produced a blank.
Albury Council has been forced back to the drawing board after one bid to operate the vessel was withdrawn and ano-ther was deemed to be non-compliant.
The Cumberoona’s most recent captain, Ray Slade, was behind the Murray River Steam Navigation’s bid which was pulled at the 11th hour.
A bid from the Friends of the Cumberoona failed to meet the terms and conditions of the expression of interest process.
It also didn’t include all the information the council required for a lessee to operate the vessel.
The council’s staff will be asked on Monday night to report on options for the Cumberoona which hasn’t sailed since 2006.
The sale of the Cumberoona is expected to be an option the council faces at its May meeting.
The council embarked on a nationwide search in February, seeking a skilled and experienced operator to have the Cumberoona back on the water. It offered a three-year lease with a two-year option.
The mayor Kevin Mack last night said he was disappointed the search couldn’t identify a compliant operator.
“We’re hopeful we can get the Cumberoona back on the water,” he said.
“But we need to be realistic about market interest in operating the vessel and ensuring that the most effective operating model is in place.
“The vessel has operated under several community and business models over 26 years.
“The leasing arrangement has been the most effective.
“A further report will fully outline the opportunities and risks associated with operating the vessel and allow us to make an informed decision about its future.”
The Cumberoona was dry docked in 2006 due to low-water levels.
As part of repair works, 90 per cent of the hull has been replaced and further work to prevent corrosion has been carried out.
More than $200,000 has been spent on the Cumberoona since it was placed in dry dock.