Gas freighter launches 'new era'
A new dual diesel and gas powered freighter, Searoad Mersey II, has begun service on Bass Strait, as the Government signaled that Spirit of Tasmania replacement vessels may be introduced earlier than expected.
The 182m Searoad Mersey II completed a five-week delivery voyage from Flensburg, Germany, in December and was soon being loaded for its first commercial voyage to Melbourne.
Owner Chas Kelly told The Advocate the $110 million vessel would increase Searoad's freight capacity by 50 per cent, and would hail a new era in Bass Strait shipping.
The ship has a cargo capacity of 6,750 tonnes, which is 3,000 tonnes greater than the long-serving Searoad Tamar.
Propelled by world-leading LNG technology with diesel back-up, the Searoad Mersey II is cleaner, faster and bigger than any of its Bass Strait predecessors.
Running on gas it produces 95 per cent less oxides of nitrogen than a diesel vessel of similar size and 30 per cent less CO2.
“I am a proud and committed Tasmanian and to have this vessel call Devonport its home port is even more special to me,” Mr Kelly said.
The vessel was seven years in the planning and was constructed over two years from 85 pre-built modules.
Captain Lloyd Cahill, who sailed the ship from Germany, said: “It represents a new era for Australian shipping and, especially, for Tasmanian exporters and importers, and it leads the world with its pioneering LNG refuelling system."
In port, LNG (liquefied natural gas) tanks are shuffled on and off the ship, with full tanks stashed in a special loading bay where they are plumbed into a recently developed cryo-conversion system which turns the liquid into burnable gas.
Mr Kelly said: “We’re market leading at the moment, but I think the gas will prove to be successful and eventually most ships in the world will be on gas for environmental reasons.”
The Minister for Infrastructure, Rene Hidding, said Tasmania was a suitable place to pioneer environmentally friendly shipping.
"We would want, in Tasmania, to have the cleanest ships in the world," he said. "We think Searoad have really set the scene and set the pace."
Mr Hidding said gas would be considered to power the next generation of Spirit of Tasmania ferries.
In 2014, Incat Tasmania delivered Francisco, the world's first gas and diesel powered high-speed ferry, to a customer in Argentina.
Meanwhile, the Premier, Will Hodgman, told the media during a visit to East Devonport that the TT Line's 18-year-old ferries could be replaced earlier than the present target date of 2022-2023.
“At this stage we remain on track to replace the ships; we’ve made provision to start putting aside necessary funds to allow that to happen,” Mr Hodgman said.
“If the business case warrants bringing forward the replacement program we’ll, of course, do that.
“We’ve got a budget sub-committee that considers these matters in conjunction with the operators ... and we’ll continue to work with them.
“Until such times as we get new ships these ones are working very well.”
Late last year, the Spirits' total passenger and vehicle bookings were up nearly seven per cent compared to the same period a year earlier, equating to nearly 18,000 extra bookings.
This followed record passenger numbers of nearly 419,000 people in 2015.
Mr Hidding, told an Estimates hearing: "Not only is TT-Line a major contributor to our booming tourism industry, it also adds millions to the Tasmanian economy through the purchase of goods and services.
"Seventy-five per cent of all food consumed on the Spirits is sourced from Tasmania, and the wine menu is 71 per cent Tasmanian.
"This all adds up to nearly $40 million of goods and services purchased in Tasmania throughout 2016, in addition to the more than $30 million paid out in wages and salaries, most of which is on the north-west coast.
"It’s fantastic for Tasmania’s vast array of goods and service suppliers and a great cash injection for the Tasmanian economy, as we know that those who arrive via the Spirits stay longer and visit more regions than those who arrive by air."
The Government announced in May 2016 that a $40 million special dividend would be paid in 2016-17 by TT-Line into a Vessels Replacement Fund, with a second $40 million dividend expected in 2017-18.
Legislation created to quarantine the money is expected to go through the Upper House this year.
A Treasury spokesman told The Mercury the money would be held in a special fund administered by Tascorp.
Large roll-on, roll-off vessels cost about $420 million each and the purchase of the two new ships will be off-set by an estimated sale price of $140 million for the two Spirits.
Footnote: Spirit of Tasmania has launched a "spirited traveller" advertising campaign in partnership with newly appointed Melbourne agency, Leo Burnett. An agency spokesperson, Patrick Rowe, said: “Getting to your destination can be just as memorable as the place itself and there’s nothing more unique than travelling on Spirit of Tasmania. The new campaign will encourage the adventurous-at-heart to come aboard and create unforgettable moments at sea and in Tasmania.”
Image courtesy of Searoad Shipping.
8 February 2017, Edition 180