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Infrastructure stories

Bass Strait shipping boost

Edition 203_TasAchiever

Tasmania’s export boom has spurred a Bass Strait freight boost, which includes the launching of Australia’s largest cargo ship.

Demand for domestic and international freight out of the island is at an unprecedented level as our growing reputation for world-class produce continues to soar.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the value of Tasmanian exports grew to $3.54 billion in the year to April 2018 – an increase of 35 per cent compared to the previous 12 months.

And, shipping companies are responding.

Melbourne headquartered logistics firm, Toll, has recently taken delivery of Tasmanian Achiever II – the largest Australian flagged cargo ship.

She was launched in Burnie last month, amid much ceremony, by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to begin the Bass Strait service in March.

Almost 210 metres in length, Tasmanian Achiever II will carry 40 per cent more cargo than Toll’s existing ships which operate between Burnie and Melbourne.

She also has a local power grid, allowing the vessel to reach its destination an hour faster than predecessor, Tasmanian Achiever I.

Toll describes this as a “major milestone”’ in the history of Bass Strait shipping.

“We are proud to support the state’s local economy by helping businesses reach interstate and international markets,” Toll Group Managing Director, Michael Byrne, told The Advocate.

“Bolstering our carrying capacity means we can support the Tasmanian exports boom driven by demand from Australian and Asian markets.”

Toll said it is responding to demand from its customers, including Tasmanian salmon producer Huon Aquaculture, Norwegian pulp and paper company Norske Skog and OneStop Metal Recycling.

Tasmanian Achiever II is part of a $311 million spend by Toll, which also includes the building of sister ship, Victorian Reliance II, and a major upgrade of terminals and wharves in Burnie and Melbourne at a cost of $141 million.

“This is the largest ever investment by a logistics business in the Bass Strait and underpins Toll’s commitment to the Australian domestic market and Bass Strait Trade,” Byrne adds.

Local producers welcome the news, but caution more is needed.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association President, Wayne Johnston, told The Land that Tasmanian Achiever II will provide benefits across the rapidly expanding agriculture industry.

However, he adds: “Tasmania’s agricultural output increased by 14 per cent last year, and to achieve this growth year on year, the government will need to review the freight capacities across Tasmania.”

“TFGA will be welcoming TT-Line's new boats when they come online, as well as the commitment of Toll, SeaRoads and TT-Lines in supporting our primary industries."

Toll’s rival shipping company, SeaRoad, has also flagged plans to expand the cargo capacity of its fleet to cope with increased demand for freight.

Executive chairman, Chas Kelly, told The Advocate that the company will "supersize" the design of the vessel set to replace the Searoad Tamar.

He said SeaRoad was in the final stages of negotiating with a ship building yard to construct the new vessel which is expected it to be ready by the end of 2020 at a cost of $140 million.

"The new SeaRoad ship will be able to transport 360 containers, 80 semi-trailers and 166 motor vehicles plus some odd shaped items, which happen regularly," he added.

Kelly also reveals that SeaRoad would consider lengthening the two-year-old Searoad Mersey II to increase its cargo capacity.

"Tasmania is going well, we want to support the industries that are there, we were the first ones to move and we'll go again. We'll go bigger," he said.

You can also expect another major Bass Straight freight boost when TT-Line launches its new $700 million twin Ferries in 2021.

Hailed as Tasmania’s ‘biggest ever infrastructure spend’ the custom-built vessels will replace the iconic red-and-white Spirits of Tasmania on the Bass Strait run adding an extra 35 per cent capacity.

As the landmark deal was announced, TT-Line CEO Bernard Dwyer, told Brand Tasmania “It’s a game-changer.”

“The knock-on effect is about getting investment in Tasmania to grow, and to do that we need to be able to get produce off the island, and bring goods in,” he said.

Image Courtesy of ABC News

19 March 2019, Edition 203

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