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Bigger, cleaner ships for TT-Line

Edition 190_TT-Line

TT-Line is set to order two new, bigger and cleaner ships to boost capacity and heighten customer appeal on its Bass Strait service.

In November, the Government approved the company’s business case to have two dual-fuel (diesel and compressed natural gas) monohulls constructed in Europe and sailing the Bass Strait route by 2021.

Premier Will Hodgman said the investment in the two ships was the single biggest tourism and infrastructure development in Tasmania’s history.

The announcement has been enthusiastically welcomed across all sectors in Tasmania. Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers CEO Peter Skillern said: “As an island state we are totally reliant upon north and south bound sailings to underpin our economic prosperity.

“This announcement clearly supports the Tasmanian agricultural sector and economic growth into the future.”

Tourism Industry Council chief Luke Martin described the announcement as historic.

“Today is the most significant day for Tasmanian tourism since the opening of MONA,” he said.

Premier Hodgman said. “Visitors arriving on the Spirit stay an average of nine days longer, spend $1,200 more and visit more places than those flying into the state.”

Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said: “There are no Australian shipyards with the capacity to build the new Spirits, but wherever possible the vessels will feature the best of Tasmania’s products in their fitout.”

TT Line Chairman Mr Michael Grainger said: “The company has carefully assessed various ship types and fleet configurations over the past 18 months to determine the most appropriate vessels to operate daily Bass Strait crossings.

“We looked at capacity, customer expectations, operating speed, sea-keeping properties for Bass Strait, capital and operating costs and operational efficiency.”

A number of shipbuilders have been shortlisted following capacity assessments and on-site negotiations by TT-Line’s Managing Director, Bernard Dwyer.

While the final selection is yet to be made and a contract finalised, the new ferries are expected to be 212 metres long, compared with the 194-metre Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2.

Along with a wider beam and slightly increased draft, this will give the ships capacity to carry 2,000 passengers, against the present 1,400.

There will be 284 cabins compared with 220 at present and public areas will be extended by nearly half.

Vehicle capacity will increase by more than 40 per cent.

TT-Line Pty Ltd, a State Owned Company, has been operating a Bass Strait ferry service since 1993.

Before that time, services were provided by the Australian National Line and, for an 8-year period, by Tasmania's Department of Transport.

The TT-Line's first ship was the $150 million German-built Spirit of Tasmania.

When Spirit of Tasmania was dry-docked after four years of service in 1997, the company chartered an 85m multi-hull ferry, Incat 045, from Incat Tasmania and dubbed her Tascat for a two-week experimental service.

TT-Line then chartered a series of similar vessels from Incat Tasmania for operations over three summers from George Town to Port Welshpool, Victoria, as Devil Cat.

The service backed up Spirit of Tasmania sailings, but was dogged by media focus on incidents of seasickness.

In 2002, Devil Cat and Spirit of Tasmania were replaced by two Finnish-built monohull ferries which were renamed Spirit of Tasmania I and 2.

In early 2004, TT-Line began operating a third ship, Spirit of Tasmania III, from Devonport to Sydney, the first such service since 1976.

The Sydney service was discontinued in August 2006 and the extra ship was sold.

Following a $31.5 million refurbishment of its two remaining vessels in 2015, TT-Line has enjoyed its most prosperous operating period.

It posted a record after-tax profit of $25.1 million for the year ended 30 June 2017 and Chairman Michael Grainger (also Chairman of the Brand Tasmania Council) said its performance compared to the previous year had improved "in virtually every metric".

The two Spirit of Tasmania ferries were valued at 65 million euros each (about A$153 million in total) at 30 June 2017 – unchanged from the previous year.

The company had been charged by the Tasmanian Government to work towards replacing the two Spirits and a special Public Account was set up by the Government in 2016 to accrue funds for the replacement ships.

Now containing $100 million, the account is protected through legislation that prevents present or future governments from accessing it for other purposes.

Mr Grainger, who has been at TT-Line’s helm since 2010, said: “Bernard Dwyer and his team have done an outstanding job on the implementation of this project.

“We are now set to take an enormous step into the future.

“These are exciting times for our company, for the State’s tourism and agriculture sectors and for the Tasmanian brand.”

Image courtesy of TT-Line

4 December 2017, Edition 190

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