Sydney Heritage Fleet, against all odds, has operated workshops of various sizes and in various locations around Sydney Harbour since its formation in 1965. Operating with, essentially, a volunteer workforce and financed by operating its vessels, donations and sponsorships, the Fleet has, nonetheless, managed within its own resources to restore and maintain one of the world’s largest and most significant fleets of operational heritage vessels. This has involved the solving of complex engineering problems and the development of techniques which are now recognised internationally. It also means the retention of traditional maritime skills, ensuring that they will be passed on to future generations through ‘hands-on’ training.
Despite the curious fact that after 50 years of existence the Fleet still has no permanent restoration base in Sydney Harbour, it is regarded internationally as a leading maritime heritage organisation.
The Fleet has learned to blend the operation of heritage vessels and heritage workshops with the need to earn money through involving visitors in the process. So blending tourism with a working environment is something the Fleet does well.
Throughout its history the Fleet has also faced challenges, few of which are covered in modern Work Health & Safety manuals. Safety for Fleet volunteers and staff, and for the viewing and participating public, is a key element in all Fleet activities.
A final aspect of the Fleet’s expertise and experience in heritage restoration and maintenance is its ability to generate and implement partnerships and co-operative programs. Restoration, on-going maintenance and operation of heritage vessels requires resources which stretch a not-for-profit organisation to the limit; without partnership there is no future. The Fleet has used this approach in all its major successful restoration projects to date. A measure of its success is that in 2003 The World Ship Trust presented the Fleet and James Craig with its prestigious Maritime Heritage Award ‘for outstanding restoration and preservation of this historic ship’.
Each year, the Fleet’s several hundred volunteers clock-up around 100,000 volunteer hours between them. Many of the volunteers are veterans having given their spare time over many years to restoration and maintenance projects which have resulted in the unique collection which is Sydney Heritage Fleet.
If you would like to join the fleet and become a volunteer please see the Volunteer section of this website.