Tasmania’s Stories

Gas freighter launches 'new era'

Edition 180_Searoad Mersey II  ... bigger, faster, cleaner

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

Back to index

Like to know more?

Join our eFriends mailing list and once a month we will keep you up-to-date with the news that’s flowing in our state. You could win a prize in our monthly competition.

Join us

Become an eFriend

Join our mailing list

Join our eFriends mailing list and once a month we will keep you up-to-date with the news that’s flowing in our state. You could win a prize in our monthly competition. 

Brand Partnership

Are you a Tasmanian business or operator? Join us in raising the profile, quality and value of Tasmania’s products.

Apply online

Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012-13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island's land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named 'Best Temperate Island in the World' by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of Mt Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania's highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King's holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania's predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world's biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the state's gross product in 2010-11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

Become an eFriend


Join our eFriends mailing list and once a month we will keep you up-to-date with the news that’s flowing in our state. You could win a prize in our monthly competition.

I’ve already subscribed