AS WATER steadily streams through the hull of his commercial line-fishing boat, Mark Espert says a slipway upgrade cannot come soon enough.
The contract to replace the former slipway has been awarded to Port Macquarie-based company Birdon, which plans to install a travel-lift within 18 months.
"That's 18 months time - I need to be pulled out in 18 minutes," Mr Espert said.
Mr Espert said the cause of the leak in his boat was unknown and the boat would need to be slipped to determine the cause.
An interim crane service is able to lift boats out of the water, but Mr Espert said the shipyard was "chock-a-block" and he was forced to wait in the marina until a space in the yard became available.
Charter operator Chris Bramley had pulled vessels Pacific Explorer and Ruckus out of the water by crane for annual maintenance.
While he had to pay more than three times the previous slip costs, he said it was cheaper than the alternative.
"It's too expensive to go down to Port Macquarie or Yamba," Mr Bramley said.
"All you're doing is taking local money and taking it away."
Mr Bramley said a Coffs Harbour slipway was needed as a safety priority and as a Coffs business asset.
"Convenience is probably the last thing we were considering," he said.
Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser said the travel-lift was a long time coming but would be capable of lifting boats weighing 75 tonnes.
"At the moment we've got fishing boats boats here, 45 tonne and above, that can't be lifted.
"They have to travel up to the Clarence to actually have basic repairs done and also have a survey done, which is required by Commonwealth law."
Mr Fraser said Coffs Harbour was the only safe harbour between Port Stephens and Queensland and a slipway would serve both the public and fishing industry.
"This slipway is required by not just the fishing fleet but any boat or vessel that may be in trouble while travelling up the north coast," he said.
Mr Fraser said the rails, removed for the remediation of the marina in 2016, should have been replaced.